SIKESTON - Issuing additional letters and an informational video to promote the proposed payment in lieu of taxes surcharge on Board of Municipal Utilities electricity revenue were the topics of discussion during a special City Council meeting this morning.
Voters will decide at the Feb. 4 election whether to amend the Charter to impose the PILOT.
City Manager Doug Friend said David Craig has offered to produce a video of council members addressing "frequently asked questions" about the PILOT at no charge.
Friend also reported that the BMU met Tuesday and discussed issuing a statement of their own explaining the board's opinion on the proposed PILOT. "As a body, they did not come to any conclusions," said Friend.
Mayor Phil Boyer said the council should consider releasing more letters clearing up misinformation. Boyer said he was even considering doing it as an individual, "but it would be nice if we did it as a council."
Bill Green, director of the department of economic development, said opponents of the PILOT are "clouding the issue."
"How do we go about unclouding the issue?" Boyer asked.
Former council member Josh Bill said there have been differing legal opinions on the PILOT going back at least to the mid-'90s, and that it will take a decision by the courts to settle it.
"That's the only way it's going to be resolved," Bill said. "I think you need to expect a lawsuit because the (long-term contract) cities have nothing to lose."
Green noted that the city is routinely threatened by lawsuits, and the city shouldn't balk on decisions "simply because there was a threat to being sued."
Friend confirmed the city received word they can expect to see a letter soon from the long-term contract cities regarding a lawsuit challenging the PILOT.
If a judge does rule that the PILOT can not be imposed on the life-of-plant contracts and the BMU is unable to raise the money on just retail, "then we're going to have to back up," Boyer said.
Charles Leible, city counselor, said the city could simply make a transfer back to the BMU if the board was unable to come up with the full amount.
Boyer suggested including legal opinions supporting the PILOT in their open letters to the public.
Councilman Jerry Pullen predicted the BMU would respond by releasing a letter with legal opinions supporting their position.
Pullen also asked, if they had legal opinions supporting the imposition of the PILOT, why the council never imposed it before without putting it before the voters.
Boyer said it was because the council members didn't have the courage.
Friend added that council members had repeatedly been told they could not impose a PILOT.
Council members discussed drafting a series of short letters rather than one long letter. "We'll put together however many letters it takes," Friend said.
"They need to be asked, 'What are you willing to give up - your safety?'" said Sue Rogers, council member.
Addressing allegations that imposing a PILOT on the long-term contract cities would be "dishonorable," Bill suggested that if the situation was reversed for Columbia, "how long do you think it would take them to do it?"
He added that for Columbia, Sikeston is "the cheapest provider on the block."
City Clerk Carroll Couch said he raised a "yellow flag" three years ago regarding dipping into reserves to cover revenue shortages, and now three years of reserve money is down to only a couple weeks.