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Saturday, May 30, 2020

New Handicapped Ramps Meet Regulations

Fairhope, Alabama


403 Fairhope Avenue. thefairhopetimes.blogspot.com

403 FAIRHOPE AVENUE

Handicapped access ramps that were constructed out onto the city sidewalk in front of the old Andres meet city building regulations, according to councilman Boone who said he had checked with the city building department.

The building has been undergoing renovations since Andres closed last summer; federal regulations to add handicapped access are triggered if renovations are extensive enough.

Councilman Burrell worried about setting a precedent for other downtown buildings; councilmen Robinson said there may be better ways to go about it and Brown agreed: "Hopefully, there will be a better solution moving forward."

Mayor Wilson said the city council approved the ramps: "I believe we have to work with the businesses that are bringing buildings to code to serve all patrons."

In some cases the only other cost-effective option may be to demolish the building.

'Back On The Rack' resale now occupies part of the space; we were told 'Mary Ann's Deli' was planning to locate in the other part.

(The Times is still investigating this story. Check back for updates.)


Friday, May 29, 2020

Council Opens Playground Equipment

Fairhope, Alabama

Fels toddler park

Splash pad

Community park


During last night's meeting, the city council passed a resolution re-opening childrens' playground equipment around town.

Playgrounds had been closed for about two months by concurrent orders of the governor and city council, to prevent spread of covid-19.

The equipment is to be cleaned and disinfected daily, the same as restrooms.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Baldwin County's First Golf Course In Fairhope

Fairhope, Alabama

Clubhouse circa 1928

Courtesy FSTC


 FAIRHOPE HISTORY  

There are many today, but Baldwin county's first golf course was established in 1914 on the east side of the city roughly between Fairhope and Morphy Avenues (west of Ingleside); the nine hole course's clubhouse was located at 651 Johnson Avenue and the building is still being used as a private residence today.

In the beginning, winter tourists from the Colonial Inn were the main players on the course, but the clubhouse was utilized for meetings of various local groups and social organizations,  according to published reports.


First tournament in 1923



Tuesday, May 26, 2020

North Section Street Re-opens to Traffic

Fairhope, Alabama

N. Section St. open




SEWER COLLECTION SYSTEM UPGRADES CONTINUE

North Section Street reopened for traffic today after being closed for sewage collection pipeline upgrades. The $2.1 million project began last November.

Ingleside Drive at Fairhope Avenue remained closed but repaving should begin there this week as well.

Fairwood Blvd. at Bayou Dr. was closed for a while too today, for "packing" a hole according to a worker.


Fairwood Blvd. closed


Bayou Dr. closed again.


Friday, May 22, 2020

Virus Shutdown Caused $1.5 Million City Budget Deficit

Fairhope, Alabama




SOME CUTS ALREADY MADE

Mayor Wilson reported that due to early interventions (cuts) by city administration in March when the coronavirus  pandemic shutdown began, about $1.2 million was saved by postponing non-critical expenses, acquisitions, and delaying scheduled capital projects.

Even so, due to lack of revenue from the statewide business shutdown (mostly sales and lodging taxes) a $1.5 million deficit is still projected. (The city is seven months into its fiscal year.)

Utility revenue was not affected much, she said.


FULL IMPACT STILL UNKNOWN

Utility projects, and those funded by impact fees or grants should go ahead as planned she said; but the full impact of the ongoing pandemic on the local economy/city revenue will not be known for another "two months" or so, according to the mayor.


COUNCIL TO DECIDE

The city council controls the city's "purse strings" and will have to approve contracts for major expenses like capital projects.

The $7 million emergency reserve fund could be utilized as well.

A $5.1 million sewer/drainage project for N. Church Street is on the agenda for the next council meeting.

Other improvements such as a new Rotary Youth Club park layout and improvements to W.C. Majors stadium are pending as well (from impact fees).

(Wilson noted the council's purchase last summer of the new CR 13 Recreation land for $2 million was not in the budget, causing further shortfalls.)



New recreation land purchase caused deficit?



Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Year's First Possible High Beach Bacteria Warning

Fairhope, Alabama

Update 1. The yellow sign was still posted Friday even though water retests were negative.





MUNICIPAL BEACH ONLY

A code yellow possible high bacteria warning (140) was found posted at municipal beach today at 2 PM; a follow-up test tomorrow is required to confirm it for code red to be posted.

An Auburn University study years ago determined both human and animal origins there; bacteria may survive in the sand itself too.

Other testing sites were not affected (Orange Avenue pier, Volanta Avenue).

Bacteria levels often rise after heavy rainfall. The last bacteria warning there was posted in September of 2019, according to ADEM monitoring records. (Bacteria will not survive as long in colder water.)

At this time, no sewage overflows have been reported to ADEM.

Yesterday it was revealed that ADEM had filed suit against the city alleging mis-reporting of sewage overflows and other deficiencies since at least 2015.



Monday, May 18, 2020

Fairhope School Commission Begins Disbursing New Tax

Fairhope, Alabama


Fairhope school commission May 2020 meeting.

SPECIAL MEETING LAST WEEK

The new Fairhope public school commission held a special meeting to begin distributing revenue from the new 3 mill property tax; the library was still closed so the meeting was held in the south entrance portico.  Four of the five area school principals attended as well.

Most of the discussion centered on proposals for hiring personnel, since that needed to be expedited so principals could "make offers"  for the next school year in a timely manner.

Chairman Ken Cole: " ... number one job ... get teachers in classrooms."

Whether funding for equipment, furniture, etc., should come from the new 3 mills or the existing traditional $300K city funding was debated as well (installment payments for five years for the K-1 building).


AKROBOS STUDY CITED

Hill Robinson, a founding member of the old Educational Advisory Committee (now disbanded EAC), argued in favor of using the new 3 mills (estimated at $2 million) only for personnel per the 2016 AKRIBOS study (click) that recommended ways for area schools to reach top-ten status in the state.

He said he was ok with using the other funding ($300K for K-1 purchase) for other items though.


SOME DECISIONS DEFERRED

Total funding being requested per school was:

* Fairhope Elementary West: $384K
* Fairhope Elementary East: $400K
* J. Larry Newton: $400K
* Fairhope Middle School: $400K
* Fairhope High School: $335K

(Fairhope Elementary East and West, and J.L. Newton are to all be K-6 this year.)

The commission voted to approve a number of personnel-related requests from each school ... but delayed voting on other requests until their June meeting.

They also began discussing what percentage should be put away in a "rainy day" reserve fund.

Commission members are: Tanya Bosarge, Robert Brown, Ken Cole, Robin Coleman, Carrie McLemore, Danielle Mashburn-Myrick, Hill Robinson, Miranda Schrubbe, Cornelius Woods.





Saturday, May 16, 2020

Emergency Water Conservation Plan Adopted

Fairhope, Alabama





Water conservation ordinance.


EMERGENCY CONSERVATION PLAN ENACTED

At a special meeting on May 13th, by a 4-1 vote (Brown, no)  the city council enacted  ordinance 1682 establishing a water conservation plan to deal with possible shortages caused by drought, equipment failure, pipe leaks,  or other problems resulting in water levels in city storage tanks falling too low.

The current drought, a pump failure, and water main breaks have caused levels in the tanks to fall to unacceptable levels; providing adequate pressure for fire protection and the hospital are primary considerations, according to water superintendent Jay Whitman.

The ordinance cannot officially take effect until May 27th, to allow time for it to be legally advertised in newspapers per state law.


VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE SOUGHT NOW

Even though a new ordinance won't take effect for two weeks (May 27th), the mayor and council are asking citizens to comply with a phase one WATER ALERT now:

* Phase I: Water Alert -- Voluntary. All persons ... are requested to voluntarily limit water ... to that is absolutely necessary for health, business, and outdoor use ... ."



EMERGENCY DECLARATION LATER COULD TRIGGER PENALTY PHASES

If consumption does not fall below specific targets, the city council may return to enact a water emergency declaration to impose further restrictions with penalties.

*Phase II:  Water Warning.
*Phase II:  Water Emergency. 

Water consumption versus supply on May 27th will determine if these measures will be needed.

Council president Burrell said he hopes the drought eases and the pump will be repaired by then ... and these phases will not be necessary.

Mayor Wilson agreed and added it is good to have an ordinance on the books anyway ... in case it is ever needed again.


Jay Whitman

Friday, May 15, 2020

New Golf Carts Await Returning Quail Creek Golfers

Fairhope, Alabama


New golf carts. thefairhopetimes.blogspot.com

Guidelines for play in May.


EFFECTS OF DROUGHT APPARENT

After the April course closure due to coronavirus, new golf carts stood ready for golfers returning to play today at the city's municipal golf course; but continuing social distancing rules permit only one player per cart (spouses ok); recommend 10 feet separation too, avoid touching common items too. Tee times are required and no league play during May.  Continuing dry weather conditions were apparent as some fairways and greens appeared parched in places.


Hole number one today.


NEW PAR THREE COURSE PROPOSED

Golf Department personnel recently proposed a new par three course for a vacant field directly across Quail Creek Boulevard from the clubhouse.

The three-hole, lighted course could increase interest in the sport they said, which has been declining recently, especially among the younger citizens.

Netting would protect adjacent road/homes for errant balls.

The $56K construction cost could be covered by impact fees; estimated $70K operational cost would be offset by proposed green fees.

(Foot golf, aka soccer golf, was also considered for this site, but rejected due to lack of space.)


Proposed site for par 3 course.

Proposed 3 hole par three course.

Night golf.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Historic Marker Damaged

Fairhope, Alabama


April 2019

April 2020


 DEDICATED APRIL 2019

A historic marker remembering early Fairhope residents Nancy Lewis and Frank Stewart has been damaged, apparently by a lawnmower or some other vehicle at the Coastal Community College campus on Bancroft Avenue.

Former Museum Director Donnie Barrett, who was instrumental in erecting the marker,  says it should  covered by city insurance policies.