Sunday, August 30, 2015

Former School Tax Enemies Become Allies

Fairhope, Al.


Voting day, March 2015
It has often been said that "politics makes strange bedfellows" and that is surely the case with Fairhope residents Cecil Christenberry  and Louis Campomenosi who were on polar-opposite sides during the tax referendum last March -- but now support the same candidate for school superintendent: Carl "Eddie" Tyler.

"Dr. Lou" is president of the regional Common Sense Tea Party; one other board member has publicly supported Tyler as well,  Myrick.

Repealing so-called 'common core' curriculum standards has always been a high  Tea Party priority, but Christenberry believes that is not Tyler's objective.

He added there "have always been" many things he and Dr. Lou agree on.

(Fairhope chapter Tea Party director Cody Philips also supports Tyler; activist Mathew Brown has not indicted a preference, to our knowledge.)


All interviews have now been completed and the final vote will be held Thursday in Loxley; but it is unlikely the appointment will be unanimous.

Tyler being interviewed.
Sources tell the Times' political reporter that at least one school board member favors Dr.James Stevens and possibly one (or two?) others Dr. John Green for the job.

One question asked of all candidates was "will you  accept the position if the vote is not unanimous" -- and all replied affirmatively, except Stevens who said he would "have to think about" it if it were 4-3.

Phillips, Campomenosi, Brown, Tyler.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hurricane Katrina's 10 Year Anniverary Today

Fairhope, Al.

Pier during Katrina

It has been ten years since the last major tropical storm affected the city: on August 29, 2005 hurricane Katrina made landfall in Mississippi.

(see the time lapse video below of the once-category 5 storm as it approached)

Although wind speed was far less than hurricane Ivan's direct-hit the year before, the storm surge reached record levels of over 13 ft. recorded at the pier park -- doing major damage to the main pier area and Yacht Club on Fly Creek.  (The concrete decking of the pier is designed to break off to dissipate energy and limit damage to pilings.)

Old yacht club
The Yacht Club building was replaced and raised higher to conform with new flood plain data; but the pier remains at the same level, insuring more damage from storms to come. (Some of the pier's lower 'crabbing pads' and a  boat launch ramp nearby were not replaced.)

Since then, municipal beach sand was replenished and some berms with vegetation added: removing wooden bulkheads south of the pier for a living shoreline was proposed at one time, but never funded. .

The cost of pier repairs alone were over $2 million, according to a 2006 FEMA press release (similar repairs were needed just a year before for hurricane Ivan):

$1.6 Million in FEMA Public Assistance Approved for Repairs to Fairhope Municipal Pier

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved a total of $1,595,930 for the city of Fairhope in Baldwin County to repair and restore the recreational pier at the end of Fairhope Avenue.

The tidal surge generated by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 caused significant damage to the Fairhope Municipal Pier. The pier facility is comprised of: the pier seawall and parking area; the main concrete pier, including a public restroom building, utility building; a swimming platform; marina structures; two crabbing platforms; and another 16' X 100' platform abutting the west end of the main pier.

The $1.6 million grant represents a 75 percent federal share of the total project cost of $2,127,907.50. The remaining 25 percent is from non-federal resources.



Pier area during storm
Repair process underway
Pier St.
Storm surge map

Yacht club

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'Scenic 98' Now Memorial Highway

Fairhope, Al.


Two signs have been erected designating Scenic Highway 98 through Montrose as a Blue Star Memorial Highway: a program started by the National Garden Club in the 1940s to honor service members fighting World War II.

A blue star displayed in homes at that time indicated a family member serving in the armed forces.

The Montrose Garden Club raised the $3,500 cost for the two signs; and plan flower gardens at their bases.

Monday, August 24, 2015

UPDATED: Personnel Board Seeks Council Action on Pay Matters

Fairhope, Al.
Howard, Stankoski, Erdoe facing.


Updated Aug. 25th: The mayor has asked the Personnel Board to make recommendations about the 12 maxed-out employees -- and one department head who's job apparently has no pay range at all.

The city's personnel board met including three newly-appointed members: Robert Stankoski (replacing twin brother Clark), Jenny Erdoe and Lorenzo Howard (a former member who decided to return): They discussed the need for the city council to act soon to update the city's compensation and job classification system.

First adopted in 2012 after two years of working with consultant Evergreen solutions,  the city had no pay grades or job classifications before then; pay was "based upon the individual person, not the job they were doing."

(In the past raises were given for reasons like "getting married" or having more children.)

The new plan provided job descriptions, pay grades and salary ranges for every job in the city -- for the first time.

Howard's June presentation to council

About three months ago, Mayor Kant asked HR Director Heathcoe and  Board members Diane Thomas and Lorenzo Howard to update the new system by comparing Fairhope's  pay ranges and grades to those of other comparable cities around the county and state; the findings were a 3% boost of the midpoints of every range was needed to conform.

 Such periodic maintenance should be done routinely; the plan has guidelines for doing so.


As in 2012, the study-update found employees here are still generally paid more than in other comparable cities; but problems have come up implementing the new classification system and pay ranges.

One issue mentioned by the board is the practice of rather than terminating an under-performing employees, just moving them to another position in a lower pay grade -- but retaining the higher pay from their former grade, thus skewing ("compressing") the range for others already there.

Also, the 20 or so part-time employees at the minimum end of ranges would need to be increased 3%, but only by about 2 cents /hr each: a  total cost of only of only $1870/yr. to the city annually.

Another bigger problem is the 12 or so current employees who are already maxed-out: their pay greatly exceeds their grade even with the 3% mid-range increase.


The board's Chairperson Thomas said she was told the mayor had pulled the issue from the agenda because he thought the 3% was not enough; and how to handle the annual COLA raises for the 12 maxed-out individuals is his primary concern.

Howard said that could easily be taken care of easily with a "one time merit raise" instead of the COLA  each year-- and normal attrition and retirements would eliminate the problem entirely someday. (He also mentioned the possibility of initiating an early retirement plan.)

(Thomas said the one-time-raises proposal was not received well. )


Howard said raises given the past three years were much more generous than in most other cities -- and city leaders needed to let them know if they were having trouble understanding the plan; Thomas proposed a workshop with them to better-explain the issues involved, if it would help.

Thomas said even the 3% being proposed would actually pass the mid ranges of most other cities, some who gave no raises at all the past 3 years;  if no action were taken and raises still given generously every year, eventually all employees will move through their ranges fast and become maxed-out at the top of their grade's ranges.

Council liaison Kevin Boone told the board he was in the dark and had no conversations at all about it with any of his cohorts on the council: He did not know why it had not yet come up for a vote.

 A workshop may be helpful, but Boone was not sure about that either.


Thomas said that since the city council controlled the city's purse strings it is their responsibility to "keep the city on target .... operating within the pay system."

She realized it would take a while before the system could be fully implemented -- but it was better now having one in place than none at all (as before).

If truly dis-satisfied with the current system they could always hire another consultant to redo the plan from scratch, she said

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sewage Treatment Plant Upgrades Completed

Fairhope, Al.
sewage plant


Superintendent Dan McCrory said that the $10 million upgrade project begun in 2014 has been completed, except for some final adjustments.
After an engineering study in 2011, the previous city council approved  (Phase 1) upgrades necessary to comply with stricter ADEM (state environment agency) water quality standards; further upgrades (Phase 2,3) costing another $10 million may be need as well, depending on expected additional ADEM regulations.
expanded aerator

The plant can now handle 4 million gallons/day -- enough capacity for expected growth for the next 15 years according to CH2MHILL engineering; but, after that an entirely new plant will be needed, -- possibly on city property south of the airport. (see the Nov. 2011 video below)

(The pink "fuzzy filters" are an additional purification element.)


Since the upgrades make the plant the most efficient in the state, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and ADEM are expected to be on hand for a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony next month (?), according to the mayor.

UV building

In an unrelated matter, repairs to the adjacent drainage-gully from the super-rainstorm of April-May 2014 are to begin shortly as well.

The foundation of the UV (ultra violet light) building was damaged and the gully further-eroded; FEMA is to cover most of the cost. 

November 2011 video:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Want To Have Coffee With Cecil?

Fairhope, Al.


Gregarious local school board representative Cecil Christenberry is initiating a 'Coffee With Cecil' event this Monday (8AM) at the Fairhope Methodist Church's Christian Life Center.

Some concerned parents initiated the idea on Facebook recently; Christenberry told the Times he hopes to make it a monthly event -- if there is enough interest.

The church is located at the corner of Section St. and Morphy Ave. in downtown.

Parents of children from feeder-pattern schools are especially invited to bring him their concerns/problems; but everyone else from the community is equally welcome as well.

The Baldwin County School Board is in the process of selecting a new superintendent and finalizing budget issues.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

'Crazy Clean' Laudromat Nearing Completion

Crazy Clean, Hwy 181
Fairhope, Al.


The new 'Crazy Clean' coin-operated laundromat on S. Hwy 181 is nearing completion, machinery is now being installed.

Citizens seem divided about whether the metal building is an eyesore or a welcome addition, since there are no other ones in town (there were two at one time)


Monday's Town Hall
How the Hwy 181 corridor is developing was a major topic at a town hall meeting to update the city's comprehensive plan recently: some citizens feel city councils and planning commissions have been negligent by not implementing the existing plan effectively: an urban planner's nightmare is already well underway.

Since most of Hwy 181 lies outside city limits and county residents have repeatedly refused to enact zoning which may reduce profitability should they decide to market their land, most of the corridor remains un-zoned -- but fully covered by city services such as police and fire protection.

181 at Fairhope Ave.
At least two lots there are partially-owned or represented by the usual agent for big box stores like Wal Mart and Home Depot.

(Two current city leaders have already thrown in the towel and conceded to the Times privately more big box stores are "inevitable.")

Pulling back police and fire services to the city limits to encourage annexation has been discussed for many years, but dismissed as being too controversial.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

University Cancer Institute Moving?

Fairhope, Al.

UPDATE: August 25, 2014. The USA Mitchell Cancer Institute has announced plans for a $2.8 million, 9600 sq ft  clinic next to the courthouse.
Present location.


A reliable source at city hall told the Times' medical reporter the University of South Alabama may be re-locating its Mitchell Cancer Institute office from its current location on the northeast campus of Thomas Hospital to nearby, vacant land off of Fairhope Ave.  -- just west of the county courthouse.

Significant surveying activity has been observed in that area in recent weeks.

new clinic

(Update: The Times has been advised that some of the USA offices may be in the main hospital building: these are all early reports, but we are confident there is substance to them all. Check back for updates.)

According to a history-timeline on the USA website, the two entities merged in 2009: 

" USAMC hires private medical oncology group practicing at Mobile Infirmary Medical Center/Thomas Hospital in April 2009, thereby consolidating medical oncology services at USA-MCI."

New Fairhope Ave. location 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Quail Creek Neighborhood Gets More Sidewalks

Fairhope, Al.

Quail Creek Blvd.
Final construction-phases of remaining segments of a sidewalk down Quail Creek Blvd. is progressing on scheduled -- and should be completed later this month.

The project began last year with phase one, from the entrance to the clubhouse.

The older streets there were constructed at a time when sidewalks were not a requirement, as they are today.

Total cost is about $115K.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Fire Station Opening Delayed

Fairhope, Al.

Parker Road Fire station

The expected mid-July completion date for the north fire station on Parker Road behind the Publix grocery has been pushed back, because more structural engineering work ("wind load") is needed for the mostly-metal building -- according to fire department sources.

The city council will be asked to buy a new fire truck for the station, according to the mayor's earlier statements.

The FVFD is a private, non-profit corporation under contract with the city to provide fire protection services.