Council approves pretrial diversion program

Mayor Jim Staff, center, with Aimee Risser, left, and LaTyron McCall.

Atmore City Council members tackled during their February 12 meeting a lengthy agenda that included two new city ordinances, including one geared toward those who commit minor legal infractions, as well as a resolution of opposition to proposed state legislation, issuance of a proclamation of support for an area non-profit and the granting of permission to hold two events on city property.

The first ordinance approved by the council was to strengthen the city’s current ordinance regarding licensing and regulation of used car sales and used car lots.
The new ordinance reaffirms the requirement that any used car dealer in the city must also have a current and valid State of Alabama Auto Dealer License.

Among its provisions are that the dealer must submit a site plan before establishing the location-specific business and that the dealer must submit to inspections by city building and zoning officials.

Violations of the ordinance may result in a misdemeanor conviction that is punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months or by a fine of not more than $500, or both. Each day that a violation exists will be considered a separate violation.

“This is cleaning up our ordinance in relation to used cars,” explained Mayor Jim Staff. “It’s more or less along the lines of other cities and the state.”
The other ordinance gave approval to establishment of a pretrial diversion program for Atmore Municipal Court.

Municipal Court Clerk Van Hughes said program participation would be mainly for those charged with misdemeanor crimes or traffic offenses, including driving under the influence.

Such offenders will be considered for admittance into the program based on any of several circumstances, including approval of the arresting officer, the offender’s prior record, an admission of guilt or remorse or a negative result on a current drug test.

Instead of fines and court costs, program participants will have to pay a non-refundable application fee based upon the type of charge he or she faces. For Class A misdemeanors and driving under the influence, that fee is $1,000; for Class B and Class C misdemeanors the fee is $500; and for non-DUI traffic offenses the fee is $300.

“Sometimes people make mistakes,” Hughes said. “This gives them a second chance.”

Council members also followed the recommendation of Staff and voted to oppose pending state legislation that allows online or catalog retailers to pay a flat sales tax of 8 percent to the state on all sales made in the state. The legislation frees such businesses from payment of local sales taxes.

“Sales taxes are what we live on,” Staff commented.

The mayor read a belated proclamation designating January as National Mentoring Month, and a representative of Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Alabama praised the support the group has received from city employees, especially those in the public safety field.

“Most of the ‘Bigs’ (adults) here come from the city, most specifically from the police department and fire department,” said Aimee Risser, Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO. “That is amazing. The city of Atmore has led the charge. I hold the city up on a pedestal all the time.”

LaTyron McCall, with AmeriCorps which works with Big Brothers Big Sisters, was also in attendance.

The council also granted permission to use Houston Avery Park for the display and judging of a Black History Month poster contest (no date was provided), and approved the use of property at Rivercane for a large-scale tent revival in the fall.

Cornelius Phillips, pastor of McCullough Christian Center, said local and area pastors had been working on such a project for some time and had finally gotten all their ducks in a row.

“We have had a desire for the past several years to have a citywide or area-wide crusade,” Phillips said. “We have obtained a tent that will seat two thousand people, we have an evangelist and we have a date (October 7-11). Now we are looking for permission to use the property at Rivercane. The tent is self-sustaining and meets all city codes. Plus, we have a two million dollar liability policy.”

Both requests received unanimous approval.

The meeting also included presentation to a local auto dealer’s general manager of a Patriotic Employer Award (See separate story.), after which the session was adjourned.