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Star City refutes allegations of unfair treatment

STAR CITY – An area business owner who does not live in or do business in the town’s limits addressed Star City Council Tuesday evening, making several allegations against the town leaders, including perceived favorable treatment of certain types of citizens and businesses over others

The mayor and a councilwoman refuted those claims point by point.

Ralph Cook II addressed council during the citizen commentary segment of the meeting, during which he was permitted three minutes to speak.

Cook, who is not a resident of Star City – nor a property owner in the town – said he was speaking on behalf of his family.

According to Cook, his family has owned property and paid taxes in Star City for “over 100 years.” He said everyone in town, including those on council, should “work with” individuals and businesses in a way that promotes equality.

Cook said his family has been “amazed” by council’s resistance to infrastructure changes and improvements. He referenced sidewalks in the town that he claimed are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

He also saw an issue with the city’s recent blacktopping of the lot at Edith Barill Riverfront Park while other streets in town are reportedly in poor condition.

“Some [people] still live on gravel roads,” he said.

Cook said Star City’s government “picks and chooses” who it supports. To evidence this, he said the town does not charge vendors to attend its weekly farmers market, but does not cut other businesses in the area any breaks.

Cook said the town needs to collect as much money from its businesses as possible.

In his statement, Cook also said the location of the pavilion at the riverfront and the town’s decision to close boating access prior to its weekly farmers market causes issues for boaters.

While Cook does not live or own property in Star City, he said he does have a business license there. He said his business used to be located within town limits, but he moved it several years ago.

Mayor Herman Reid chose not to address Cook’s comments during the meeting, but council denied Cook’s allegations at its conclusion.

Reid said Cook does own a business that has been licensed in Star City and does pay $5 per year to renew his business license. However, the business is outside Star City limits, so Cook does not pay business and occupation taxes or anything similar to the town.

Reid said Star City does not “pick and choose” the businesses or residents the town supports.

“We treat everybody with respect, and we do the right thing. You can ask anybody here. We do the right thing. I don’t care if I hate you or I love you; I’m going to do the right thing,” he said.

In terms of the blacktopping at the riverfront, Reid said the job was paid for through hotel/motel tax funding for improvement in the town.

He said the town did a good thing last year when it put together the farmers market so area business owners and artisans could make money while everything was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the town is still doing a good thing by continuing to hold the farmers market.

Reid said the market is doing well, but vendors aren’t making “hundreds and hundreds of dollars” from their attendance.

“We’re putting our own time in down there to make sure everything runs good,” he said.

Reid said Cook has had an issue with Star City for a long time.

Reid and Councilmember Sharon Doyle addressed the boating comments made by Cook. Reid said the boat access gate is locked at 11 p.m. Thursday nights. Vendors are permitted to enter the area around 1 or 2 p.m. on Fridays. As soon as the farmers market closes at about 7 or 8 p.m. on Fridays, boaters are permitted to bring their boats into the area.

Reid said the town is making things better for boaters such as removing signs on the riverfront that prohibit boat trailers. Signs are planned to inform boaters on the process of backing in and paring trailers.

“We’re in the second year of the farmers market and I only recall two boats coming down there on a Friday night and wanting in,” Doyle said.

Reid said most of the sidewalks in Star City are ADA compliant, and the ones that are not are located on state property and not Star City’s to fix.

“You show me one that isn’t, we’ll fix it, even though it’s the state road,” he said.

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