Community

Georgetown mayor walks out of meeting (with video)

A meeting of Georgetown business owners and city officials ended abruptly Tuesday when the city's mayor, Jack Scoville, walked out of the meeting.

The Georgetown Business Association sponsored a meeting Tuesday night to allow local business owners to question Scoville about a proposed millage increase that City Council members expect to vote on this week.

But Scoville walked out of the meeting before city resident and former candidate for mayor, Marty Tennant, could begin a prepared speech about the city's finances.

Tennant alleged in his speech that the city has a "slush fund" of around $21 million and does not need a millage increase.

Scoville and other members of City Council have previously denied such a fund.

Some business owners who attended said they were disappointed that the meeting ended as it did.

Before announcing he was leaving Tuesday's meeting, Scoville said he hoped he had answered everyone'squestions. Councilman Paige Sawyer and several other audience members also left shortly after Scoville.

Scoville said later that he walked out because the forum was supposed to be a question and answer session about the millage increase and "not a forum for people to pontificate.

"I came to talk about the millage," he said. "Not listen to idiocracy."

Many of the business owners who attended had an exchange with Scoville about making Georgetown a more "business friendly" community.

Chuck Richardson, who owns 829 Front Street, said during the forum that with all the taxes he has to pay, it "doesn't pay to own real estate in Georgetown anymore."

Richardson had suggested to Scoville that a sales tax increase would help take some of the burden off business owners and spread it around more evenly. Scoville said he was receptive to the idea.

"I'm real disappointed it ended so abruptly," Richardson said.

"I had a lot more to say."

Matt Wesoloski, the president of the business association, said the forum "started off well."

But he said Tennant's speech "put a chasm right in the middle of the meeting, ruined a lot of good communication."

Wesoloski said that though he was disappointed Scoville left, he felt he "did the right thing.

"He was avoiding a situation where he knew there would be no end," he said.

David Kossove, owner of Augusta Carolina on Front Street, said the main reason he and many others were there was so they could "feel like everybody is on the same team."

Kossove said the city's tax base was decreasing because people were moving out of the area and no new businesses were opening.

"We're suffering as a result," he said.

Kossove said "the city is not necessarily working with the businesses here" and "that's a culture we've got to change."

The City Council will vote on the proposed 6.1 mills increase on Thursday after a public hearing.

Scoville told those in attendance that without the proposed increase the city would have to lay off 40 employees with annual salaries of $30,000 each to make up for the budget shortfall.

Scoville said if there is any discussion that would lead to people being laid off he would first propose that the council serve without its salary or benefits. "We've got to lead by example," he said.

Without the millage increase, the city's budget shortfall would be about $375,000.

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