The elections of April 3 brought a political swing to the Piedmont city council, particularly concerning the Williams Foods grocery store tax incentive contact, and Jeff Williams said his latest offer to the city was made because he finally feels like there is a council willing to work with him.
“I have always said that if the council will work with me I will work with them,” Williams said. “This (new) council has done nothing but communicate with me and has been working with me.”
During Monday’s city council meeting when Charles Coffman, Al Gleichmann and Vernon Woods were administered their oath of office, Williams made a new offer to the city concerning the $1.9 million in tax incentives that were promised to him in a contract in 2010. Williams said the previous contract is still valid if the council should choose to go in that direction, but he is now willing to split sales tax collected from the store for 15 years with no payments of interest required.
“The previous proposal is still there but I would like to offer an option that I would think would be better for the city,” Williams said.
The new deal offered by Williams would have the city pay him 3 cents of sales tax collected for 15 years with no interest. Williams said his current projections show that 3 cents would pay him close to $1.9 million in a 15 year span, but if collections don’t equal $1.9 million after 15 years then the city would not be required to pay a penny more.
“That gives me the risk and the reward,” Williams said.
If the store performed higher than projections then Williams would receive more than $1.9 million in a 15 year span, but the city would also benefit from higher sales tax collections.
Because the council meeting agenda did not allow for discussion of the issue the council could only hear Williams’ proposal. However, the council appeared eager to hash out the details and cast a vote in the near future.
“We are all chomping at the bit to discuss it,” Mayor Valerie Thomerson said. Thomerson and City Manager Jim Crosby said after the meeting that the most recent proposal by Williams seemed to be a fair offer for the city.
“My feeling is that this is an excellent offer,” Crosby said. “I think it has been an albatross around our neck and it’s time to get it over with.”
Williams’ latest proposal would have the city make its first payment on July 1 based on sales tax collections in May. However, Williams said he would not ask for any back pay on sales tax already collected. Williams did ask the council to pay for his legal fees that he has accumulated in defending his contract over the past year. Williams said he would submit the total of his legal fees before the council votes on his latest proposal but called it a small amount.
Williams said his latest offer, which appears to be even better for the city than the previous contract, was made because he wanted to show his willingness to work with the council if they would work with him in return.
“The reason was I (now) have a council that all have returned my phone calls,” Williams said. “Not one of them has written a nasty letter or has lied in any way. I had told that other council if they would just call me we could work this out.”
Williams’ mention of “nasty letters” was in reference to letters mailed out by former council members Hoss Cooley and Jeff Davis who raised concerns with the grocery store contract and accused Williams of trying to play games with the city.
“I want to let them know that I am a part of this community,” Williams said. “I felt like (the new council) was willing to work with me on the other (contract)…which made me extremely more abatable to giving them an even better deal. I have always said it from day one, there has been no backdoor meetings. I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”
No special meeting has been scheduled as of press time but the council, city manager and mayor indicated Monday that they would like to bring the new proposal up for a vote in the coming weeks.