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Motel questioned about tax payments
Council has hearing on Best Western
HPD Officer Tony Durham
Mayor Jim Thomas congratulates HPD Officer Tony Durham, who along with his deceased dog partner, Brad, for helping solve a burglary, home invasion and murder case June 2. Council members are in the background. - photo by Photo by Randy C. Murray

The Hinesville City Council conducted a show-cause hearing Thursday regarding the 2013 business license for Best Western Inn & Suites.
The hearing took place after the council’s regular meeting.
The council asked motel owner Rajankumar Patel to appear before the council to determine his “fitness and eligibility to operate as a licensee” due to his failure to pay the hotel-motel tax from January-May 2013.
A letter dated July 11, 2013, was drafted during the recent city-planning workshop to notify Patel of the administrative hearing and informed him of the city’s options not to extend his current license, or to suspend or revoke the license per Section 9-25 of the Code of the City of Hinesville.
City Attorney Linnie Darden said that a show-cause hearing had been scheduled for March 7 on delinquent hotel-motel taxes for October-December 2012. Those taxes, penalties and interest fees were paid, and the hearing was canceled.
“This could be deemed as a second violation, as we were here back in March,” Darden said Thursday.
At the start of Thursday’s meeting, Darden said Patel claimed to have paid the taxes owed from January through May, but because it was after 5 p.m., there was no way to verify his payment.
Mayor Jim Thomas reminded Patel that the tax he was not paying was the tax he collected from his customers. He said it wasn’t his to use for any other purpose. Council members Jason Floyd, Keith Jenkins and Kenneth Shaw told Patel they needed to hear from him how he was going to ensure the timely filing of the hotel-motel tax returns by the 20th day of the month following and his intent to pay those taxes on time in the future.
They said they did not want to discourage businesses in the city, but said all businesses have to abide by the city’s ordinances and pay required taxes.
“I’m going to have my (accountant) file and pay the taxes on time,” Patel said.
He told the council he understood that keeping his business license depended on it.
Thomas then told Patel there would be no further action taken at this time, but if he fails to pay the hotel-motel tax in the future, there would be consequences.
In other business Thursday, the council approved changes to the city’s ordinance for pick-up of curbside garbage containers.
The revised ordinance says the roll-out containers are to be placed at the collection point approximately 4 feet from the road by 6 a.m. the day of pickup, but no earlier than 5 p.m. the day prior. The carts are to be returned adjacent to the housing structure no later than 6:30 a.m. following the scheduled pick-up day.
Vicki Davis, executive director of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, gave a presentation about the Liberty County Retail Attraction Team. Davis was assisted by Anna Chafin, director of marketing and research for the Liberty County Development Authority.
The council eventually approved $4,000 toward the $32,000 for contracting the first year of services with Retail Strategies Inc. The remaining balance would be contributed by other stakeholders.
Among their successes, Chafin noted Retail Strategies’ market analysis for Sylacauga, Ala., showed a need for a home-improvement store. The firm persuaded Home Depot to put its first rural store in Sylacauga.
The council also approved a request by Hinesville Police Department Chief George Stagmeier to hire a communication clerk, traffic-control officer and police officer.
Council members joined Thomas in recognizing HPD Officer Tony Durham and his deceased K-9 partner, Brad, for their part in solving a burglary, home invasion and murder case June 2. Maj. Thomas Cribbs reported that Durham and Brad followed a blood trail from the victim’s apartment to the assailant’s, who lived in the same complex.
During the public-comments session, resident Joseph Stuart vented a litany of complaints. Although he agreed with the revised garbage ordinance, he said it wouldn’t matter because renters didn’t care about trash. He opposed several issues he’d read about in the Coastal Courier, including a proposed water park, a referendum for a proposed annexation of Hinesville’s west side and proposed revisions to the alcohol-license ordinance.
Stuart told the council that Ludowici was reducing its tax rate by 1 mill and asked why Hinesville couldn’t do the same. Thomas reminded him he was not in Ludowici.

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