Meridian Star

November 24, 2013

Ward 5 residents question council members

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Questions ranging from taxes and term limits to street paving and public transportation came up at a Ward 5 meeting on Thursday in Meridian.

    Randy Hammon, recently elected as councilman of Ward 5, held the meeting so that constituents and others would have an opportunity to voice their questions and concerns. To the question of public transportation, Hammon said the last information he had about the subject was that a team had been assembled to look at the issue.

    "Nothing has come before the council and we haven't seen the first proposal," Hammon said.

    As to the question of term limits for city council, Hammon said he would be for them.

    "If I can't get anything done in one term or two, I don't know if I would want to repeat that process," Hammon said.

    Another questioner asked why allow only five people to speak during the citizens comment portion of the council meetings.

    "I can guarantee you that we would not have restored it at all if it was going to continue as it was," Hammon said. "You know and I know that we had people coming up there and talking about stuff that they didn't need to be talking about."

    Hammon added that citizens can handle many issues by getting in touch with their council member through the office of the clerk of the council.

    A question about taxes was answered in part by one of the attendees; Ken Storms, a former chief administrative officer for the city of Meridian. The question: Why are my taxes in the city double what they are in the county, including car tags?

    Storms explained that people who live inside the city limits of Meridian not only pay city taxes, they pay county taxes as well because the city is inside the county. Storms said 52 percent of the county budget is generated from those who own property inside the city limits of Meridian.

    "So while you, as a county resident living inside the city limits pay 100 percent of all the street repairs, the street overlaying inside the city limits, you're still paying 52 percent of everything outside the city limits.

    Fire Chief Anthony Clayton noted that city residents also get fire protection from a full time fire department.

    Storms said about 98 percent of the county's budget is spent outside the city limits.

    Hammon said that while budgeting was tough this year, the council did find money to hire additional police officers. He also praised the work of the new chief of police, James Lee, in developing the quadrant system of patrol. Hammon said as an engineer, the system appealed to him and he believes it is working.

    Another questioner wanted to know the status of Ward 5 paving projects. Hammon explained that the streets had been prioritized by the previous council, but the funding did not ultimately cover all of the streets that were selected for work. He said the previous council did a good job of selecting the streets that were in need of repair.

    "They had to cut some of them out because the funding wasn't there," Hammon said.

    He said the work will continue when the funding is available.

    Ward 2 Councilman Dustin Markham said additional paving will be done.

    "Just because we didn't get to it this summer, that doesn't mean it won't be looked at next summer," Markham said.

    Markham said the council also budgeted for Public Works to get some new equipment rather than having to rent it this year and he noted that some county supervisors have agreed to work on paving in the city as well.

    Ward 4 Councilwoman Kim Houston encouraged the audience to keep their holiday shopping in Meridian so the retail taxes would help boost the city's coffers so that more money could be put into paving next year.