The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


December 30, 2012

The Top 12 of 2012


Sharon Wellington

Athens Police are still investigating the murder of a 32-year-old woman who moved here from South Carolina and was active in a Rogersville church. Police believe she was stabbed to death in her Elm Street apartment by someone she knew. They have interviewed a person of interest but have made no arrest.

A fellow member of Southside Church of Christ in Rogersville discovered Wellington’s body about 7 p.m. Nov. 30, in her second-floor apartment at 1410 E. Elm St. where she lived alone. The church member had gone there to see about Wellington after not hearing from her for a couple of days. Wellington, who had worked in the past but was not working currently, came from South Carolina, where she still has family.

Tax hike

Some angry residents chastised Athens City Council members and Mayor Ronnie Marks in November following a swiftly proposed and approved 1 percent sales tax increase.

The increase, which will boost the sales tax from 8 to 9 cents on every dollar spent, will take effect in January 2013.

The increase is expected to generate about $3 million in additional revenue for the city each year. About half will go to schools and economic development.

Council members who backed the hike — Mignon Bowers, Milly Caudle, Jimmy Gill and Harold Wales — believed the city needed the money to do more than make ends meet each year, such as establishing a fleet-management system for streets, sanitation, police and fire vehicles; road repair and paving; economic development; and other projects.

Councilwoman Caudle explained it best by saying without the increase, the city would just continue as it had in the past to "kick the can down the road" when faced with the need for new vehicles, paving and other big-ticket projects.

However, some residents and business owners, still struggling after years of nationwide recession, believed the council was both sneaky and uncaring in raising the tax.

Some said the increase would prompt shoppers, especially those in eastern Limestone County, to shop in Madison or Huntsville. Others said the city government, which had at least $3 million in reserve, should live within its means.

Still others were outraged that the council called a work session to discuss the possibility of a sales tax hike and then announced at that work session that they planned to pass the hike even before the public could comment. Many also disapproved of the timing of the vote, believing the three newly elected council members should have been allowed to vote on the matter rather than the three about to leave office.

Council members, believing the hike was critical to growth and unsure whether the newly-elected-but-not-yet-installed council members would approve it, moved quickly to ensure the measure would pass.

Councilman Jim Hickman opposed the increase because of citizen opposition, uncertainty about the need, and the pressure to promptly approve it.

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