Breaking News Bar

Alongi, council choose not to oppose tax as a group, but rather individually

Managing Editor
Posted on 3/13/2019, 2:04 AM

DU QUOIN -- Du Quoin Mayor Guy Alongi, while adamantly against the Public Safety Tax as proposed by the county, chose decorum over anger when addressing the city council near the conclusion of Monday's meeting. "Do we stay neutral or formally oppose it," the mayor asked?

The answer was to remain somewhat neutral.

Alongi said his intent was simply to get the word out to Du Quoin citizens, as well as all of Perry County, that there are two sides to the referendum. And that in his eyes, a new half-cent sales tax could prove to be detrimental to the city's bottom line even if it does temporarily boost the county's coffers. The tax could steer some consumers away from shopping in Du Quoin, and even worse, it could start the ball rolling for major employers like General Cable and Walmart to consider relocation at some point.

Councilman Chuck Genesio said Monday's meeting helped to "get the facts out there."

The council chose not to officially on-record oppose the tax as a group, but rather as individuals.

"We will let the public decide," Alongi said.

The city's economic development director, Jeff Ashauer, said what concerns him the most about the tax is that he believes it "discriminates against poor people." He added that another tax simply makes his job of recruiting new business and industry to town more difficult.

Alongi said he despises property taxes -- citing that the city has only imposed one once in the last four years -- but believes that may have been a preferred alternative to the sales tax increase.

Williamson County Sheriff Steve Bareis, who attended the meeting with County Clerk Josh Gross, said "crime's not going to stop" and that funds are needed to offset expenses at the jail. He said he has already cut back to the bare bones in terms of staff and maintenance.

Gross described conjecture that businesses would fold their tent and move out of town because of the tax was nothing more than a "scare tactic." He said that when a business "throws that out there, it's done in an attempt to gain leverage.

"This (Public Safety Tax proposal) was not something that we entered into lightly," he said. "Yes, we should have included both you and Pinckneyville in making our decision, but we didn't think we had a better option. Our only choice now is to move forward with our decision."

Alongi said that should the referendum fail -- and he hopes it does -- the city will not turn its back on the county.

"We would be at the front of the line to help you create a task force that could help you overcome your budget woes," the mayor said.

Alongi then praised Gross -- a Du Quoin native -- for attending the council meeting and facing the group's wrath.

"You faced the firing squad tonight and I'm proud of you," said the mayor.