Maryville City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to place a referendum for an increase in the local sales tax on the November ballot, becoming the first in the county to look at the measure.
Jerome Moon made a presentation on behalf of Blount Countians for Educational Excellence, a grass-roots organization advocating the referendum that would raise local sales tax by half-a-cent, with the money going to support education. If the referendum passes in November, sales tax in Blount County will increase from 9.25 cents to 9.75.
The Alcoa City Commission is scheduled to take up the matter in their August meeting. If the Blount County Commission supports the referendum it would put the issue on the county-wide November ballot. If the county commission votes for the referendum neither city will need to have a second reading on their resolution because it becomes a county-wide vote.
Much of the Maryville council meeting centered on the one council member not present - the late Ron Ivens.
Ivens died July 29 following a battle with cancer. Mayor Joe Swann said the council will appoint someone to fill the position but was in no hurry to fill the position, out of respect for Ivens and the job he did on council.
“We’re not in a rush, out of respect for Ron,” Swann said. “We’ll have to have someone fill his term until the next election (in 2011),” he said.
Swann said council members will send nominations to city attorney David Black for him to compile information so council members can make their decision.
Swann said Ivens was a dear friend and public servant. The mayor said Ivens served on the Planning Commission, a job that was sometimes controversial and demanded time and attention.
Swann recalled how years ago his wife, Becky, asked Ivens to help buy a Letterman’s jacket for a football player at the high school who was one of the best in the area. “Maryville is sometimes a hard place to fit into,” Swann said. “We had a football player who couldn’t afford the jacket.”
Soon Ivens was working with others to not only provide the jacket but create a fund for others in the schools who had needs. He spearheaded the creation of the Children’s Fund to help pay for items students needed but couldn’t afford.
As a council member, Ivens had a great attention to detail, Swann said.
“It needs to be said, we really are going to miss Ron,” Swann said. “He made a huge contribution.”
Vice Mayor Tom Taylor said he didn’t know Ivens before they served together on the council, but they became fast friends afterwards. “We were close and fast friends. Ron was definitely larger than life.”
Councilman Tommy Hunt said he was impressed with how Ivens took care of his siblings and other members of his family, even as a young man. “One of the things I’ll remember most is he never forgot his roots,” Hunt said. “He helped his family and supported them.”
Councilman Andy White said Ivens was the conscience of the council by asking detailed questions. Ivens had compassion for others and a passion for the community, White said.