The Auburn City Council approved applications for a recently initiated program to assist small businesses in Auburn during their Tuesday night meeting.
To help businesses recover from reduced sales, the City recently extended a loan interest subsidy to Auburn small businesses. Five applications for the subsidy program were submitted, and all five applicants were approved unanimously at the meeting, held via Zoom video conference.
Ward 6 Council member Jay Hovey abstained for loans involving Auburn Bank, his workplace.
Mayor Ron Anders took time during his announcements to reflect on the tragedies that have affected Lee County over the past two years and how the City is addressing the current pandemic.
“In last March, we had a terrible tragedy that happened in our county, where 23 people lost their lives,” Anders said. “This March, we had the beginning of a health crisis, whereas today our county has lost 28 citizens, seven of those from Auburn.”
As East Alabama Medical Center has seen a decrease in cases recently, Anders said he feels the City's businesses need to begin to reopen. Anders said he and the other mayors of Alabama's 10 largest cities collectively sent Ivey a letter asking her to reconsider the continued closure of restaurants and barbershops which were not allowed to fully open under the state's new safer-at-home order.
“Today, it’s obvious to me that many of our small businesses and small restaurants in our community need to be opened,” Anders said. “I believe that the time is now for the rest of our businesses to be open.”
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Anders believes officials in Montgomery are currently working towards the reopening of more businesses. The City does not have the authority to reopen businesses ahead of Ivey's orders.
“Our finances at the City of Auburn rely mostly on sales tax and occupational license fees, which means our two major sources of income are among the most heavily hit,” Anders said. “All this impacts the funds available for public safety, City schools, parks and recreation, street resurfacing and repairs and any City services.”
Anders said the city manager's office is reviewing City expenditures and looking for ways to help those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. However, more information will help the City get a better understanding of its finances. Financial data from April will allow the City to evaluate how finances have been affected by business closure and quarantine, said City Manager Jim Buston.
During the Committee of the Whole before the City Council meeting, the Council planed to vote on extending the student housing moratorium currently in place. The vote will take place at the next City Council meeting.
The moratorium restricts the construction of private dormitories and academic detached dwelling units within Auburn city limits. It was originally intended to last only 90 days past the day it was enacted, Feb. 18.
The Council approved the payment of an outside panel to assess and promote individuals within the Auburn Fire Division. Auburn shares the responsibility of these assessment panels, both using them for promotions and sending Auburn public safety staff to serve on boards, said public safety director Paul Register. Payment for the assessment panels totaled $18,000 plus travel fees.
Ward 2 Council member Kelley Griswold was the only Council member who opposed the agenda item. Griswold wanted to know why the Auburn Fire Division requires an outside entity to promote individuals instead of allowing promotions to be handled via an internal department. Buston explained the City was sued in 1991 over promotions within AFD. The court ruling requires the City use an outside entity to promote individuals, and the City is bound by the decree unless it returns to court to remove it.
Ward 4 Council member Brett Smith called in to the Council meeting from East Alabama Medical Center, where he said he is expecting a baby. He asked that the Council draft a resolution thanking hospital employees and staff, which will be voted on at their May 19 meeting.
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