Vidalia receives tax penalties rebate

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, March 13, 2013

VIDALIA — The City of Vidalia has received a rebate for 80 percent of the tax penalties it was fined for back taxes in 2012.

When Alderman Jon Betts asked about the status of the rebate at Tuesday’s aldermen meeting, Mayor Hyram Copeland said the city had received most of the penalties associated with the $635,412.35 check it wrote to the Internal Revenue Service in October.

Approximately $200,000 of the bill was penalties.

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“We have been reimbursed due to the fact that we paid (the back taxes) in good faith and corrected the situation,” Copeland said. “Hopefully we can get the rest of it back.”

The taxes and fines associated with them were for taxes that were owed for periods that spanned six years. Though he initially denied being responsible for the non-payment, former City Manager Ken Walker — who is now the city manager for Sultan, Wash. — eventually made public statements accepting blame for the issue.

Copeland said the city’s interim manager and administration have worked to ensure the situation never happens again.

“We have brought everything back up-to-date, and I don’t think we will have that issue anymore,” he said.

In other news:

4 Alderman Vernon Stevens asked that — in light of the city’s recent layoffs of workers — the board approve any hires at the police department.

The city laid off 14 employees last fall, and another 19 in February.

Alderman Tron McCoy said all departments should be subject to the same review rather than singling out the police department.

“I am not singling them out,” Stevens said. “The other departments have always brought their hires to us.”

City Attorney Jack McLemore said that as a community incorporated under the Lawrson Act, the mayor has the right to review all hires and fires.

Copeland said the town would not be hiring anyone right now.

“Before any new (employees) are hired, I will call you and let you know what the situation is,” Copeland said.

4McCoy thanked the city and city employees for the support they gave him after his father’s recent death, including arranging for the use of the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center for the funeral.

“I have probably been through the toughest year of my life,” he said. “I had some real friends with the city who did some special things for me at a real hard time at my life.”