But the underlying core of the discussion boiled down to not so much whether the city wanted a church to move into the town, but whether the city needed a business there more, in order to increase the tax base. Kimberly is a largely-residential bedroom community, with few businesses that supply it with the sales-tax revenues that are the financial lifeblood of cities and towns in Alabama.
The IGA supermarket supplied substantially more revenues to the city than it had seen in previous years, despite tax incentives that the city agreed to.
“I would love to have you guys here as a church, but our concern is that we need to get a business in here,” Shivers said. “We really need to save our city center to provide commercial support for the services the city needs.”
Council members also expressed concern that the presence of a church would affect the ability of certain other businesses within the vicinity of that church, and thereby further hamper the ability to bring business revenue into the city. Various laws restrict certain business activities, such as alcohol sales, within a certain distance of a church or school.
Church 29:11 has outgrown its current small building and has to hold two services each Sunday, Pastor Rick Hand said. The church has looked for a larger facility for a year and a half, including locations in Gardendale and Fultondale. Peoples Bank offered the Kimberly building to the church for $1.1 million, Sawyer said.
“We’re just here to say that if the building’s available, we want it,” Hand said. “We have a heart for Kimberly, and we want to be in Kimberly.”
There was opposition voiced by some Kimberly residents, and a petition against the request was presented by Patsy Graben. She complained that the church would hamper the ability to attract business to the area around it, and therefore impair the tax base. “We haven’t had our streets paved in years. We need businesses here,” Graben said.