By Shannon Hunter
The October 14 regular City Council was to be preceded by a meeting on the 2019-2020 Budget, because the Council has yet to develop a budget for the current fiscal year that began on October 1. This meeting was canceled because of the announcement of the closing of the Kardoes Rubber plant in LaFayette. This plant is one of the largest customers of the City’s electrical service, and the loss of that income will have an impact on budget planning. Mayor Moody asked the citizens to keep the employees of Kardoes in their thoughts and prayers while they work through the change in their lives. Police Chief Rampey reinforced this message in his invocation.
The regular City Council was called to order, and the minutes of the Sept. 23 meeting were approved by a unanimous vote. Mr. Chris Neuenschwander of Jackson Thornton Certified Public Accountants & Consultants gave a preliminary report on the audit of the City’s finances. He said that the City is financially strong, with low debt and good cash reserves.
His only concern is the need of a plan for renovating aging infrastructure, funding it via debt or a regular assessment to be paid off over the life of the new installation. He emphasized that the water, sewer and electrical systems are making money, but it is appropriate to spend some of the net income on upgrading old components of these systems. He also warned about the need to invest in cyber security, identifying ransomware as an example of a real threat to municipalities.
Mayor Moody took the opportunity to praise City Clerk Louis Davidson for the multiple roles that he plays in keeping the City government working. Mr. Neuenschwander agreed that a good City Clerk is “worth his weight in gold”.
Next, Mr. T. J. Wood addressed the Council with regard to plans for the upcoming 2019 Alabama Farm-City Week, November 22-28. The theme is “Keep Alabama Growing”. Focus in Chambers County this year will be on tree farming, with an adult tour on November 14 to acquaint the population about this aspect of agriculture. Interested parties should contact Carrie Royster at the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce: firstname.lastname@example.org, (334) 642-1411. The Council voted to issue a proclamation to include LaFayette in the participation of Farm-City Week.
The Council then undertook a discussion of the cutoff day for utility bills that are delinquent in the month of November. This was because of the Thanksgiving holidays. The normal cutoff date for delinquent utility bills is the 27th, which is the day before Thanksgiving. This would mean that anyone whose water was cut off for nonpayment would be without water until December 2, almost a week. The Mayor recommended moving the cutoff date to the morning of the 25th in order to give three days for service to be restarted. City Clerk Louis Davidson pointed out that leaving the cutoff date at the 28th created another problem because the 28th is the last business day of the month, and the preparation of the next month’s bills would be complicated as well. City Attorney “Mac” Tucker was instructed to prepare an amendment to the ordinance , moving the cutoff date to the 25th.
Councilman Toney Thomas told the Council that there had been several complaints about dirt left in the street by the contractor doing the water line installation on 2nd. Avenue. A city employee told the council that he had told the contractor to clean up, but that it is the responsibility of Harmon Engineering to supervise the work. Councilwoman Blasingame commented that, in a meeting, the contractor had emphasized that they would keep the area clean.
Councilman Ellis asked how many applications had been received for the vacant Fire Chief position. He was told that four applications had been received, and he suggested that the Council proceed to evaluate the four candidates and make a selection. The Mayor said that he would look into the matter.
Councilwoman Blasingame stated that there would be Trick or Treat on Main Street on October 13, from 4 to 5 PM, and also that there would be an event from 5 to 8 at the Alfa Building. The LaFayette Sun and Dori Harmon have challenged all downtown property owners to decorate for Fall. Councilwoman Blasingame then asked about the status of the items remaining from the surplus sale. City Clerk Davidson said that the City was working with two companies to help with the sale, one for the cars, and one for the other items.
The council voted to pay bills totaling $689,131.65.
A tax holiday for Severe Weather Preparedness was approved as Ordinance No. 456, for February 21-23, 2020. The purpose of the tax holiday is to encourage citizens to purchase supplies and equipment that might be needed as a result of severe weather.
The Council accepted a bid for supplying sodium hydroxide to the Water Treatment facility for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Two nuisance properties were brought before the Council for a second time because the time extension granted in the August 12, 2019 meeting for undertaking repairs has expired. The first was Daniel McClain – 218 6th Avenue SE, LaFayette, AL, Parcel # 12 12 06 13 3 005 009.000, and the second, Lionel & Nancy Pittman – 6th Avenue SE, LaFayette, AL, Parcel #12 12 06 13 3 005 010.000. City Attorney “Mac” Tucker informed the Council that the grounds of both properties had been cleaned, but that nothing had been done to the buildings. Both were declared a nuisance.
Four Cemetery deeds were approved, three in Handy Cemetery and one in LaFayette Cemetery. In Handy Cemetery: Deed No. 1519 to Hugh Bledsoe, Deed No. 1521 to Yolanda Pearson, and the transfer of Cemetery Deed No. 1526 from Annie Mae Bledsoe to Hugh Bledsoe. The single LaFayette Cemetery Deed No. 1527 was conveyed to Jason Odom.
At this point, Councilman Thomas informed the Council that a very old cemetery had been discovered while cleaning the grounds behind the Community Center on 1st SE, and he urged the City to maintain the grounds. City Attorney Tucker commented that Judge Milford had researched this cemetery, and he recalled that it was the First Baptist Church Cemetery. (A few years back, volunteers working on beautification of the city attempted to clean up the Community House property including this cemetery, but were told not to by the City, because the City was not sure where the property lines are located.)
The Mayor closed with a reminder to the citizens, asking to remember in their prayers the Kardoes employees who now face an uncertain future.