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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mayor Kant Presents Final City Budget

Fairhope, Alabama

Publisher's note: This post will be updated if/when more information is released by the city.

Burrrell, Brewer, Kant


Mayor Kant presented his proposed FY 2017 budget to the city council last week, including a 2% cost-of-living pay increase for all employees and selective merit raises (a total 3% personnel cost increase).

Kant said the annual budget is just a guide for the council which must still vote on most individual expenditures.

Since  the council may not have time to approve it (or make changes) before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1st. -- this year's budget may need to be extended for a while via a continuing resolution.

Boone, Ford (l-r)
Based on figures mentioned during the discussion, overall projected revenue is about $64.8 million and expenses $60.1 -- with a $4.7 million surplus.

(The Times has requested the actual document from the city clerk to confirm the numbers: check back here for updates)

An overall 7% property tax revenue increase is projected; there is currently $7 million in the city's emergency fund.

Lodging tax is projected to be lower due to expected room closures/renovations at the Grand Hotel.

Other highlights include funding for:

* Additional city staff (Planning, Public Works, Recreation Depts)
* Employee healthcare costs up $700K (even with individual deductable increases)
* Debt reduction for utilities only
* Upgrades to the landfill (nearing capacity)
* Upgraded employee compensation study
* A master plan for Volanta Park recreation
* A new fire truck ($485K)
* Five new police vehicles and replace in-vehicle cameras.
* New garbage and recycling trucks (A new route and 400 new customers were added just this year)
* An additional $350K for area schools (per EAC's recommendation)

Major capital spending projects proposed:

* Fly Creek marina seawall ($175K budgeted)
* Lights for the new tennis courts ($190K)
* Quail Creek clubhouse repairs
* Library repairs ($360K)
* Soccer complex restrooms/concession stand/locker rooms ($300K)
* Parking deck improvements ($250K)
* Golf path improvements ($100K)


Kant warned the council of major utility plant maintenance issues that need to be addressed, including:

*Upgrades to electrical substations and overhead wiring in the vicinity of Thomas Hospital costing from $4 to 8 million (current internal funding is not sufficient to pay for it all due to the purchase of the Dyas triangle property exclusively using electric department revenue)

*Sixteen miles of cast iron natural gas pipes still need to be replaced: a federal mandate to prevent explosions (cost about $4 million)

*The east water tower needs to be painted (cost $1million)

*Sewer lift station upgrades ($2 million)

Kant was not elected to a fifth term: new mayor Karin Wilson takes office on November 7th.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Updated: Council Expected To Enact Partial Development Freeze

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: After hearing objections from developers. the city council decided to delay the moratorium decision until after the next city government takes office on November 7th. They said they needed more notice to prepare for the freeze which may affect financing of new projects being planned or next-phases of older projects.


At tonight's meeting, the city council is expected to introduce and possibly enact a six month moratorium on applications for new residential subdivisions and multiple occupancy projects within the city's five mile police jurisdiction -- to allow time to review various regulations already on the books regarding growth issues such as traffic, drainage, utility service availability and environmental protection issues  -- as well as the city's comprehensive growth plan and zoning ordinance itself.

Ordinance – Relating to the subdivision regulations, declaring a moratorium on the filing of subdivision applications within the City limits and the five-mile planning jurisdiction for a period of six (6) months to address the following items: to evaluate public utility availability, address traffic issues, review and amend the City’s drainage regulations, review requirements to protect sensitive environmental areas, review of existing subdivision regulations and zoning ordinance, access management on major corridors and other traffic related concerns.

Moratorium Established. Except as hereafter set forth, a moratorium is imposed upon the acceptance and consideration of all Subdivision and Multiple Occupancy Project Applications by the City of Fairhope Planning Commission (the "Moratorium").

A moratorium had been proposed by several candidates during the recent election campaign and council member Brewer raised the issue again during the last council meeting to give time to "stop and take a breath" and "get control"  to upgrade regulations and add additional planning staff if necessary.

At that time it was not known if multifamily projects and subdivision applications already submitted could be included in the moratorium: city attorney Wynne was to study recent case law to determine that and come up with precise wording for the proposed moratorium ordinance.

Since that time, sources on the Planning Commission have told the Times such a moratorium would only apply to future applications, not those already in the pipeline like the controversial Fly Creek or Battles Road apartment projects.

(Monday's regularly scheduled council meeting was moved forward to today because of scheduling issues)

Brewer second from left

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Updated: New Airport Grant Means Continued Military Training

Fairhope, Alabama

UPDATE: Mayor Kant told the Times later that there is still a stipulation that if the Airport Authority does not make payments on the loan for the 240 acres of land -- it would revert back to city ownership. This could affect the security arrangement for re-financing the debt. If we can find verifying documents we will post them here.

Navy officer addressing Airport Authority last year


The new $2.9 million Federal FAA grant just awarded to the Airport Authority to expand the airport's east side carries with it the usual strings of allowing the continued use of the airport for military T-6 flight training: the touch and go at the report itself and aerobatics training of new pilots in designated airspace sometimes over the city itself or major its neighborhoods (Rock Creek, Sandy Ford, etc).

This competitive AIP (Airport Improvement Program) grant will be used mostly for ground preparation and drainage work.

A 5% match from the Airport Authority will be required of about $145K

The Times receives numerous complaints/inquiries about "noise" from the training on both sides of the issue: some are annoyed by the nuisance of the loud drone constantly over their neighborhoods while others see it as patriotic to support the practice which has been going on since the area was mostly-rural in the 1940's -- and has always been tolerated here.

Some worry about possible plane crashes as well (see below); and are reluctant to speak out because of public ridicule.

According to military spokesmen, many Navy and Marine recruit-pilots receive their first training here (based in Pensacola) and the Mobile Bay coastline makes an ideal setting for proper orientation for new pilots: throttle cuts back and stalls are also practiced accounting for changes in the pitch of sounds.

Additionally, new pilots from allied nations (Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc) are also trained here.

(Supplemental Coast Guard and Air Force training is also conducted here.)

Recently, congressman Byrne has been involved in negotiations to move the aerobics training to less populated areas but the bureaucracy moves slowly we are told.

President Obama has also been informed of the issue, according to some involved.

T 6 Navy trainer

While the Airport is run by the city's independent Airport Authority, it is heavily subsidized by city taxpayers to the tune of $35,666/month -- which is used to operate the airport and service its debt.

Besides grants, the AA receives income from fuel sales, leases of hangars and other space it owns at the airport.

Total airport revenue for the month of August 2016 was $49K -- but expenses were $102K for a deficit of (-)$81K.

The Authority's attorney, Josh Myrick of the Stankoski/Myrick firm, has charged fees of  over $16K so far this year.

Year to date, the Authority is in the red by (-)$361K, including a $285K debt principal payment.


The Airport Authority is considering seeking proposals to refinance its existing debt of $7.54 million over a seven year period: yearly principal payments would be from $200 - 300K over that period.

A proposed balloon payment of $5.8 million would occur in 2023.

Security is to be the 240 acres of land the AA owns there, intended for use as an Industrial Park.

The land was purchased for the airport by the city in 2007: originally the land was to revert back to the city after five years if the AA was not self supporting by then; but in 2011 the city council decided to deed the land permanently.

Airport Authority members are appointed by the city council to four year terms.

Air Force T6

Friday, September 16, 2016

City's Drinking Laws Could Be Rolled Back

Fairhope, Alabama

In central business district. (north is up)


In the wake of last month's historic election, and before the next government takes over on November 7th,  the city council is considering establishing an Entertainment District covering most of the downtown central business district -- where open containers of alcoholic beverages (in shatterproof cups, no glass or bottles) could be purchased from licensed vendors and carried onto city streets anywhere in the district.

Currently, state law prohibits taking alcoholic beverages out on the street, even during events like the monthly Art Walk: state ABC Board officers issued some citations recently.
Councilman Boone, left

Areas in the CBD like the community park, splash pad, and Faulkner State College campus where children/minors may be present would be excluded; but a corridor extending down Fairhope Avenue to the 'Shux' restaurant on the pier should be considered as well, according to councilman Burrell.

The ED would be based on other ones in Alabama (Vestavia Hills, Opelika's) to "promote commercial development and pedestrian activity" in the downtown.

The City of Mobile has one in its downtown too.

Fairhope's  Downtown Business Association would serve as the "downtown development entity" required by state law before enacting such districts: Up to two ED's could be established in any single municipality.

Police Chief Petties said he had "mixed emotions" about establishing the new district itself; but paper cups (vs glass/bottles outside) were "a good idea."

Councilman Burrell, left

After hearing from two local bar owners, the council discussed extending sales of alcohol until 2AM, seven days a week in the new district: currently that is only allowed on weekends and the cutoff is 12AM the remaining days.

Police Chief Petties opposes this change because "nothing good ever happens late": he cited an unfortunate incident involving a meat clever several years ago as evidence.


Sec. 4-2. - Hours of sale regulated; penalty.
It shall be unlawful for any person holding a license issued by the state alcoholic beverage control board or a license issued by the city for the purpose of selling alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises and curtilage thereof, excluding private clubs, to exchange, barter, give or sell any alcoholic beverages to the general public during the following hours and days: Sunday through Wednesday from 12:00 a.m. (midnight) to 7:00 a.m.; and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.


 central business district map
Several restaurant and bar owners were present  to advocate for the changes (about seven will be directly affected) -- to accommodate their younger customers who may want to stay out later: they cited new security measures (id checks, guards, surveillance, etc) put in place to allay the police chief's concerns.

They want it to be effective year round, not just for special events like Art Walk, to accommodate visitors and tourists.

A map and draft ordinance for the new ED will have to be approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board before the council can vote to enact it; how long that may take was not mentioned.

(Mayor Kant and councilman Ford missed this meeting)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

WABF Radio Back on the Air Friday

Fairhope, Alabama

New picture window view of Church Street


old antenna taken down
This afternoon, station manager Lori Dubose was finishing up the move from the old studio on S. Section Street and hoped to resume operations Friday.

(Signal strength may be less than before though.)

The new location is 9 S. Church Street.

The station has been off the air for about a week as equipment was moved and new connections made for broadcasting the signal from a new antenna site in Mobile: the familiar old one on Section Street was taken down this morning.

In keeping with their oldies theme, the studio is being decorated in suitable 1970's motif.

The old building will be torn down and the property converted into a six lot residential subdivision.

New 9 S. Church St. studio

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Roundabout Gas Station Gets Permit

Fairhope, Alabama

CR13 site filled in and smoothed over now


permit issued
After appropriate fees were paid and erosion controls installed, the city's  building department issued a land disturbance permit ... and the unauthorized foundation work for a new gas station that was begun just after the new roundabout opened on August 1st has been filled in and smoothed over by the contractor.

The contractor thought the permit he obtained for the adjacent roundabout work was adequate, according to an informed  source.

After actual building plans for the new station are submitted and reviewed, a building permit will be issued if all other city regulations on the books are met -- and construction could resume.

If the building permit is denied for some reason, the applicant could appeal to civil court for relief.


It is difficult to pinpoint from the county's planning map (below), but the site appears to be in county planning district 17 where residents have not yet enacted land use planning/zoning; but the city still issues building permits there in its ETJ (extra territorial jurisdiction): within its five mile policing jurisdiction (roughly all the way to Fish River).

In order to enact land use planning, residents of district 17, and 14 just to the east, will need to petition the county commission for a voter referendum -- and if it passes a committee of citizens will be appointed to classify all property in each district.

That has already been done in Pt. Clear's district 26 and east Daphne's district 15 to the north as well as others south (in yellow on the map).

City limits appear in green on the map.

Baldwin county planning districts

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11, 2001 Attack Remembered

Fairhope, Alabama


Chief of Police Joe Petties presided over a ceremony commemorating the 15 year anniversary of the infamous attack on New York City.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

New Fairhope Parking Lot Construction To Begin

Fairhope, Alabama


The city council has approved the design and permits have been issued for the new parking lot behind the library, to be funded by the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation using the yearly rent it receives from its Colony land lessees.

It is hoped the 55 new spaces will help relieve chronic parking problems in the area of the library where Faulkner State College students are using scarce street parking as part on an agreement the city made with the college back in the 1980's.

New landscaping and gardens will be added directly adjacent to the library as well.


A kiosk designed by local artist Dean Mosher that will be used for the Walking School Bus program has already been installed on the property.

It was constructed as part of a scouting project.