JOLT: What is local advocacy group JOLT all about?
By James Faucett • Photo by Angelina Bellebuono
“Basically, our name says it all,” said Jack Bone, a local business owner and the group’s president, at the group’s meeting earlier this month. “We’re for jobs, opportunity and lower taxes.”
Since forming a few months ago, the non-profit has brought in guest speakers and then broken up into groups to identify concerns they have with Madison, the county and the school system.
“We just want to make a positive impact on Morgan County,” Bone said Tuesday. “We want quality growth, like everybody else.”
The main thing the group is concerned with is local economic development, said member Johnny Youngblood, of Madison.
“If we don’t bring more industry into Morgan County, taxes are going to keep going up every year,” Youngblood said. “If we don’t get more businesses in here to offset the taxes on the property owners, it’ll tax us out.”
Youngblood said of Madison, “The city seems like they’re anti-economic development.”
A major focus of the group’s criticism is Madison’s impact fee policy. The city adopted the policy 3-2 last year, with council members Fred Perriman and Rick Blanton voting against it.
“We don’t think it’s a good thing,” Youngblood said. “We’re wanting jobs, opportunity and lower taxes and we don’t see that the impact fee is a good thing to bring industry here.”
That’s why the group recently had Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Bob Hughes speak at its last meeting, he said.
“Is that a good policy or not?” Youngblood said. “That’s what we wanted to know.”
In Youngblood’s assessment, after hearing from Hughes, the group determined it was not.
Some of the questions the group has raised are why a company would choose the area over another that doesn’t have impact fees, and might offer additional incentives, or why a local resident who wants to build a house should have to pay the fees when they're already paying property taxes.
Despite its criticism of the fee, the group is “not trying to pick a fight with anybody,” Youngblood said.
“We’re not mad at anybody, but we want to do what it takes to bring industry here,” he said.
The group hopes to increase its membership beyond its current 40. At its last meeting, Bone said he thought the group had reached the point where it wanted to increase its visibility to try to bring about change.
“The only way to do it is if we’ve got a big enough voice,” he said.
JOLT meets again on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at Calvary Baptist Church at 7 p.m.
Next week: A closer look at impact fees and city and county officials’ views.
Part one of a two-part series