Originally Published: December 11, 2017 6 a.m.
An 84-year-old city liquor-license fee could go away this week, depending on the decision of the newly seated Prescott City Council.
Also up for review by the new council: Prevention of workplace harassment, and new speaking rules for the public during council meetings.
In its first full session, the newly seated City Council will conduct two meetings on Tuesday, Dec. 12: A 1 p.m. workshop; and a 3 p.m. voting session. Both meetings will take place at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.
Four newly elected council members were sworn into office on Nov. 28, including new Mayor Greg Mengarelli, returning Councilman Steve Blair, and new members Alexa Scholl and Phil Goode.
Although the council conducted a brief meeting at the end of the Nov. 28 session – choosing Councilwoman Billie Orr to serve as Mayor Pro Tem (vice mayor) – this week’s meeting will be the first full outing for the new members.
First up on the 3 p.m. voting session’s regular agenda will be a repeat discussion of an issue that has come up in the past: Possible elimination of the annual liquor-license fee that liquor establishments pay to the city.
In October 2016, the council narrowly voted down an attempt to do away with the fee – rejecting the motion in a 4-3 vote.
The fee dates back to 1933, and it has come up a number of times in recent years, as local bar and restaurant owners have maintained that it unfairly singles out their industry.
While Mengarelli brought up elimination of the fee during his election campaign, City Manager Michael Lamar says an effort already had been in the works prior to the results of the November election to take the matter back to the council.
“Staff has been looking at it separately,” he said Friday morning, Dec. 8. “I think the city has made the determination that these folks are already paying the state liquor-license fee. An argument could be made for double taxation.”
Also, in the meantime, Prescott voters approved Proposition 443 – the measure that increases the city’s sales tax by 0.75 percent, as of Jan. 1, to help pay down the city’s public-safety pension debt. That additional sales tax revenue will bring “financial stability” to the city’s general fund, Lamar said.
A city memo reports that the liquor-license fee generated $82,530 in the past fiscal year. The money has gone toward the city’s bed tax fund, which is used for tourism promotion.
Community Outreach Manager John Heiney pointed out that the liquor-license-fee revenue is a small portion of the $900,000 or so that makes up the city’s tourism budget.
He added that bed tax revenues (paid by hotel and motel customers) have been increasing by 4-to-8-percent annually, which would help to make up the difference if the council chooses to eliminate the liquor-license fee.
In other action, the council will:
• Conduct a 1 p.m. study-session workshop on “preventing workplace harassment and hostile work environment.”
Lamar said the city has been increasing its instruction on such matters – both because of recent sexual harassment charges that have come to light nationally, and because of a case he dealt with in his previous job in Georgia, in which a county clerk made sexual-harassment charges against the county chairman.
“It was very trying,” Lamar said, adding that “finding ways to prevent it” is his goal for the city.
Earlier this fall, all city employees were required to participate in training on preventing harassment and hostile workplace environment, Lamar said.
In addition to the workplace harassment workshop, the mayor and council will receive training from City Attorney Jon Paladini on the council/manager form of government, as well as open meetings, public records, and conflicts of interest.
• Discuss a new public-speaker format for council meetings, which Lamar said is being introduced “under the guidance of the new mayor for a more formalized process.”
Among the formalized steps will be a “speaker request form” that the city will ask members of the public to fill out if they want to speak during the meeting. The cards will ask for the speaker’s name and address, as well as the agenda item of interest.
The new rules will also change the time limit for speakers from five minutes to three minutes, and will include a light to remind speakers when their time limit is approaching.
The new rules will require speakers to direct their comments and questions to the council, not to city staff.
Lamar said the rules are intended to formalize the process, and are not intended to limit public speech at the meetings.
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