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|Monroe Council lowers property tax; businesses want church shut down|
Property owners in the city of Monroe will pay less property tax in the coming year, thanks to a compromise Mayor Jamie Mayo and the city council reached.
City council members had discussed lowering the city's general alimony millage more than half a point, from 10.84 mils to 10.24 mils. Mayo warned the city council he would veto the move. He said it would place a financial hardship on the city.
Under a compromise reached among Mayo and members of the city council, the general alimony millage rate for the 2008-09 fiscal year was set at 10.7 mils, a .14 reduction over the current rate.
The city council acted on the matter Tuesday night at its regular meeting.
For two groups of citizens gathered for the meeting, however, two other topics dominated the agenda.
More than 75 residents from around Monroe packed into the city council chambers to demand answers about the operations of city pumping stations during flash floods last week as Hurricane Gustav moved through the state, dumping a foot of rain in some corners.
A standing-room-only crowd meant many people who gathered to complain to city officials about the pumping stations were denied entry to council chambers.
North Monroe resident Brad Armintor said one thing he believed would come out of the meeting was the realization that something has to be done about drainage in the city.
"I think the city council and the mayor are pretty much aware now that the things they have been hearing from the people in charge don't hold water," said Armintor, whose Glenmar Avenue home flooded last week. It was the second time Armintor's home flooded in a month.
"Not a soul there said the pumps were on in their area," Armintor said.
Armintor said he believed the city was not ready for the weather conditions Gustav delivered to Ouachita Parish.
"They just got caught with their pants down," Armintor said. "They were unprepared or whatever."
In other council business, a zoning appeal saw the congregation of one Monroe church pitted against businesses surrounding their North 2nd Street church location.
The Rev. Gregory Douglas said he received approval from the city's Planning and Zoning Commission July 28 to open a church at 319 North 2nd Street.
After moving into the building, a number of businesses in the downtown area appealed the presence of the church. The businesses asked the city council to revoke the church's license to operate at the North 2nd Street location.
That would mean Restoration Community Church of God in Christ would have to close its doors and find a new home.
The exchange between Douglas and the city council became heated when Douglas suggested councilman Jay Marx had informed him the church's closure "was a done deal."
Marx disputed ever making that statement.
"You'd better go have a conversation with God and remember what it was I said," Marx told Douglas. "I said I could not speak for my colleagues."
Complaints against the church were lodged by at least 12 downtown businesses and property owners. Their complaints ranged from parking issues to fears of transients visiting the church for food.
Mark Sanderson, who owns more than 20 properties in downtown Monroe, said he did not want the church located in the downtown area because it could restrict future growth and economic development. Sanderson said he was not against the church and its work.
"I'm speaking in favor of my property and other property in the area," Sanderson said.
Marx said a unanimous vote to defer action on the appeal should give both parties ample time to work out a compromise.
According to Marx, a local real estate management firm had agreed to find the church a suitable new home without charging realtor fees.
Unless the church is successful in finding a new home, the council will entertain the businesses' appeal at its first regular meeting in October.