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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Silverhill Completes Police Chief Interviews

Fairhope, Alabama


Marcus Green

Mayor Wilson and town council members interviewed two candidates for the job of police chief Monday in their council chamber.

Wilson said that twenty applications for the position were received, but only six were judged qualified for the office.

Out of those, three were to be interviewed by the council in a public forum.

Marcus Green who grew up on the Eastern Shore and whose family still owns a business there was first to be interviewed: He said he is currently working with the Lowndes County, Alabama sheriff's department and was a Montgomery city officer before that.

Next was Phillip Robinett, currently Assistant Chief in Mt. Carmel, Tennessee, who said he has been in law enforcement since 1977 and has served as chief of several small towns around the country including Kodiak, Alaska.  His mother-in-law has family in the Silverhill area he said.

Both men have extensive military service, and Robinett is an FBI Academy graduate.

They were interviewed for about an hour each with questions like:

Why apply to Silverhill?
What are your best qualifications? Strengths? Weaknesses?
What is your supervisory style?
Do you prefer marked or unmarked police cars?
Have you ever applied for grants?
What would you do if an official or council member did something wrong?

Perhaps the most significant ones were about "healing the community" in the wake of the situation surrounding the last chief -- and their opinions of neighborhood watch and police reserve programs, both of which had been put on hold here.

Green said the reserve officer program a good thing but had concerns about neighborhood watches because over-zealous citizens have gotten hurt elsewhere in the country; good training could overcome that he said.

Conversely, Robinett said he was a big supporter of neighborhood watches, but had mixed feeling about reserve officers who have gotten into trouble in other places because of poor training (pulled gun instead of taser as example).

Both generally said they were not informed enough about the situation with the last chief to comment about the "healing process".


THIRD APPLICANT INTERVIEWED BEFORE

The third applicant, Kevin Brock who lives on nearby Bohemian Hall Road, was interviewed at a previous meeting. He has experience as a police officer in Loxley and is currently an instructor of criminal justice at Faulkner State University, according to mayor Wilson.
Kevin Brock

Brock also operates a real estate business in the area, according to web sources.


The council will review the applications and make its selection during a coming meeting or could choose to reject all applicants and let the Baldwin County sheriff continue patrolling the town.




Phillip Robinett

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Funding Approved For New Downtown Parking Lot

Fairhope, Alabama




Single Tax Corporation President Lee Turner told the Times the corporation's directors have approved funding for a new environmentally-friendly parking lot on city property behind the library.

The final design has not been selected yet, but there will be at least fifty-five additional spaces with pervious pavement -- and all of the big heritage trees will be saved.

The city council will have to approve the final plan as well.

The FSTC uses land-rent it charges its lessees to fund such projects -- as demonstrations of their philosophy.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Municipal Election Coming This Summer

Fairhope, Alabama


AUGUST 23RD ELECTION DAY

With the focus on the presidential election this November, citizens should not forget their city's own quadrennial election this summer when the mayor and all five council positions will be up for grabs.

As far as the Times knows, all incumbents plan to seek re-election.


QUALIFICATIONS TO RUN

According to state law, anyone living within the city ninety days prior to the election -- in this case Monday, May 23rd -- is eligible to run for office after paying a $50 qualifying fee to the city clerk during the "qualifying period."

The qualifying period will be from July 5 -19th: candidates must be registered city voters at the time of qualification.

There are no city voting districts; candidates for city council must specify which "at large" position they are seeking (Places 1-5); they cannot select more than one.

Candidates must also file Statements of Economic Interests with the State Ethics Commission (clk) simultaneously with filing Statements of Candidacy with the city clerk.

The appropriate campaign finance disclosure forms will need to be filled out as well, according to the Secretary of State's guidelines (clk).

The city's new government will be sworn in on November 7th.


COMPENSATION

Currently the mayor is paid $32,400/yr in monthly installments and regular council members $9,600; the council president receives $10,800/yr.

Additionally, all are eligible to participate in the employee group health care plan.

Council meetings are held twice monthly but there are numerous committee assignments as well during the interims: one well-known former councilman called it "almost a full-time job now,"

(Currently, the mayor serves as utilities superintendent as well -- and receives extra, separate pay for that job: the positions could be separated at council's discretion.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Monday's Council Meeting Postponed

Fairhope, Alabama








The city council meeting scheduled for Monday has been postponed until Friday, May 27th  at noon because of problems getting the quorum of three: one is sick and two others are out of town on personal business.


The only significant item on the agenda is the final approval of the Hayek commercial PUD on N. Greeno Road (clk).


City clerk's notice: 

"Due to unexpected conflicts, the City Council meeting scheduled for May 23, 2016 is being cancelled and rescheduled.  Please see the attached Public Meeting Notice rescheduling for Friday May 27, 2016 at 12:00 p.m. with the Work Session at 11:00 a.m..  Pursuant to the Code of Alabama, the City Council must meet twice a month:  “The council is required to hold at least two regular meetings each month. An exception is made for towns (under 2,000 in population) where only one regular meeting each month is required. Section 11-43-50, Code of Alabama 1975.”

In order to reschedule and keep the 7-day notice requirement Friday is the earliest we could schedule.  Memorial Day is Monday which is a Federal, State, and City Holiday which prevented it being on that Monday night."

Senior Councilman Has Health Problem

Fairhope, Alabama





Seven-term councilman Mike Ford suffered a "minor stroke" recently but was doing well in rehab, according to Council President Jack Burrell.

Ford missed the last council meeting two weeks ago and several committee assignments since; he is still having problems standing and walking, Burrell said.

Ford has not announced yet if he intends to seek re-election this August.

Monday, May 16, 2016

New Plan For 'Dyas Triangle' Property Emerges

Fairhope, Alabama





FOR A "NATURE TRAIL PARK"

The city council has approved applying for a $500K grant administered by ADECA from the National Park Service to construct 3.2 miles of trails on the 34 acre Dyas Triangle it purchased in 2013.

A parking lot, restrooms, archery range and a "arbortorium" would also be part of the $1 million project, according to the preliminary design by Thompson Engineering.

The city's share would be actual costs -- and in-kind construction accomplished by city personnel.

This is only the second year of the National Park Service's Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program, according to its website (click).

The city council will still need to vote to appropriate the money, if the grant is awarded.

(Councilman Burrell owns property on Alice Lane, near the northern half of the property)


Project Description:

The purpose of the City of Fairhope's Nature Trail Park is to develop approximately 3.2 miles of new passive trails on a recently acquired 34 acre tract of undeveloped land located in a critical watershed (Fly Creek). The new trails will connect with the existing Eastern Shore Trail, one of Alabama's 15 National Recreation Trails and will provide natural resource based outdoor recreation activities. The project will construct 7,049 linear feet (of 1.3 miles) of 8 foot wide multi-use asphalt trail around the
perimeter of the property that is bordered by State Highways 104 and 98, and Scenic Highway 98. The project will construct 9,985 linear feet (1.9 miles) of 8 foot wide natural trail lined with wood chips. The tree trail will wind throughout the triangle shaped property. A 40 foot by 80 foot Nature Center will be constructed as part of this project. In addition, 104 parking spaces and adequate restroom facilities located near the parking lot will be constructed. All new facilities will be ADA accessible. The total project cost is estimated at $1,000,000.





Sunday, May 15, 2016

New Trail Construction Finally Underway

Fairhope, Alabama



Hwy 104 north of Section St.


City public works crews have begun filling in a steep bank along the south side of Hwy 104 in preparation for the expected commencement of work next month on a sidewalk/walking trail up to Greeno Rd. -- and then north across a new Fly Creek bridge to the Rock Creek neighborhood.

Drivers are being asked to use caution there or avoid the area altogether.

The project was delayed for over a year by right of way acquisition and other technical issues.

The $550K project is funded mostly by a federal Transportation Alternative Grant; but the city will pay about $150K of that (click).

A representative from public works will be on the site Tuesday at 10AM to explain details.




Saturday, May 14, 2016

City-area Schools May Be Reconfigured

Fairhope, Alabama

THREE K-6'S POSSIBLE?

Christenberry
District School Board Representative Cecil Christenberry told the Times he favors the recommendation of the Baldwin School Task Force for conversion of Fairhope Elementary and Intermediate schools into  kindergarten through six grades instead, to make better use of the total classroom space available in this feeder pattern.

The Elementary School is nearing capacity now.

Since the Larry J. Newton school south of town, already a K-6, is being under-utilized -- the main problem will be figuring out how to balance attendance between the three with minimal disruptions for the children and their parents.

The old Intermediate school on the corner of Bishop Road and Fairhope Avenue may need to be refurbished.

CITY COUNCIL ON BOARD?

At their last two worksessions, the mayor and council began discussing passing a resolution of support for the reconfiguration, but made no final decision.
April 2016 Fairhope council session

The matter came up briefly at a Education Advisory Committee meeting two week ago as well: when a member asked about it, a consultant from the Akrobos Group said that converting to K-6's is the trend statewide now, but the primary problem here is that teachers need more collaboration time -- if entering the top ten systems in the state academically is their goal.

Having smaller class sizes may help free up more time for teacher meetings though.

The consultants were hired to recommend ways to get into the top ten in the state, not deal specifically with growth issues directly; the EAC is expected to make a recommendation to the city council in the near future.


SPECIAL TAX DISTRICT REFERENDUM TOO?
April 2016 EAC meeting

Christenberry also told the Times he favors considering any way the system could raise more funding, but he thought the November general election was too early for a voter referendum to form a special tax district for the city's feeder pattern.

Citizens would have to vote to impose a new 3 mil property tax in the new district.

Special districts are also under consideration for the Gulf shores/Orange Beach and Elberta feeder pattern areas too, according to media reports.

Mayor Kant and most council members have indicated support for the referendum (letting people decide) but not if they personally would support it.

A special tax district is one of the four options recommended by the Akrobos consultants being considered by the EAC as well; about $600K more per year will be needed (to hire more substitute teachers), assuming all other funding remains constant.

The committee was to hold a special meeting last week for further discussions on the matter.







Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fairhope Soccer Club To Kick Off New Fundraiser

Fairhope, Alabama


New Fairhope Soccer Complex


TO COMPLETE NEW SOCCER COMPLEX

The Fairhope Soccer Club briefed the city council Monday about its new campaign, called SCORE,  to start later this month to raise funds to purchase bleachers, goals, nets and miscellaneous other necessary equipment/amenities for the city's nine new fields nearing completion at the corner of Manley Road and CR 13.

The goals themselves could cost over $60K
 
Field lighting has already been installed and the parking lot paved; laying of the sod and fencing all around the complex is nearing completion as well.

Grand opening is still scheduled for this October's Halloween Bash tournament, but the Bermuda-grass fields may be usable for practice well before then.


SIX-MONTH EFFORT PLANNED

Club president Dirk Flad told the city council about the six-month campaign beginning shortly -- and asked permission to include field-naming rights for companies/individuals willing to sponsor them for three years each.
Flad addressing council Monday

The council agreed, but reserved final approval of each name.

Besides sponsoring the fields, other fundraising will include selling brick pavers and direct gifts -- to reach their goal of over $300K this year.

A campaign website and a 'GoFundMe' account for smaller donations will also be established, Flad said.


SINGLE TAX CORPORATION TO CONTRIBUTE?

As announced earlier, the FSTC is expected to contribute to help finance construction of concession stands and other amenities for the facility ($450K); and the city added another $600K this year to the $2.3 million it has already spent.

Construction has not yet begun on restrooms and locker rooms either.

The corporation's directors were expected to formally vote this week.

The FSTC, a 501(c)4 non-profit, uses the rent paid to it by its lessees to fund various civic projects as a demonstration of their philosophy of "cooperative individualism."





Saturday, May 7, 2016

Updated: Controversial North Greeno Road Commercial Project Returns

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: The ordinance approving this project was introduced, but allowed to lay over for another two weeks after a neighborhood resident raised concerns about the possibility of additional rezoning on the west side of the road.



North Greeno Road site



CITY'S ENTRANCE A COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR?

Hayek PUD
After being pulled at the last minute from the April 11th  meeting's agenda, a proposal by Fred and Kris Hayek for a commercial Planned Unit Development on residentially-zoned property at 848 N. Greeno Road will be considered by the city council again at Monday's 6PM meeting.

The property is on the east side of the highway, just north of Volanta Park.
  
27,120 square feet of commercial space in four, thirty-five foot tall "residential looking" buildings are being proposed along with 111 parking spaces.

The majority of the space will be reserved for professional offices -- but some will be retail (19%).

The applicants requested their proposal be pulled from last month's agenda when it became apparent some council members had concerns about the type of retail activity to be allowed there; more restrictions were added (no drive-thru windows, gas stations) and the proposal resubmitted.

Permitted retail uses include: sandwich shop/deli, coffee shop, juice/smoothie shop, office supplies, barber shop, ice cream shop, gift shop, pharmacy, et al.)

"residential-looking" buildings
According to its designer, the project may serve as a template for future, similar developments all along that stretch of highway.

Critics of the project worry though that the road may eventually turn into another congested "Airport Boulevard in Mobile" but proponents argue the property there is not suitable for residences anymore.

The Planning Commission approved the project by a 8-1 vote several  months ago (click): Mayor Kant and councilman Ford in their capacity as ex officio members both voted for it.

Councilman Burrell has also publicly expressed support.

According to the city clerk, the council may choose to just introduce the ordinance Monday and let it lay over again for two weeks, or may vote for immediate consideration -- and give its final approval.


NOT COMPREHENSIVE GROWTH PLAN COMPLIANT

The project does not comply with the city's just-updated comprehensive plan map which calls for village commercial nodes at major intersections with residential in between -- as an alternative to the usual strip mall type development usually found along main roads in other towns.

Comprehensive plans in Alabama are considered only "guides" though -- not legally binding themselves.



updated comprehensive plan map







May 2016 Fairhope Art Walk

Fairhope, Alabama


Friday, May 6, 2016

Fairhope Beaches Being "Trashed" By Visitors

Fairhope, Alabama



Fairhope North Beach park


ENTRANCE FEES COULD RISE

Because of the "trashing of beach parks" on some weekends, the mayor is asking the city council to raise entrance fees "a couple of dollars" to help cover the higher cleanup costs.

Currently, during Spring and Summer months only, city-area residents having a sticker are allowed in at no charge but others are charged $8 per car and $3 per person for walk-ins; but that is no longer enough to cover the cost of cleaning up the park and restrooms.

Paper, cans and bottles, food, soiled diapers, cold charcoal and miscellaneous other items are being dumped and some of them scattered by the wind; the addition of more  trash and recycling cans last year did not have much impact on the problem.

North Beach Park entrance
Mayor Kant said that Public Works personnel had to come in and clean up twice-daily over the busy weekend of April 24-25th and expenses there have been growing over the years as more people use the park.

He thought some of it may be deliberately done, perhaps by those angry at having to pay at all.

At one time the fees were as high as $20, then lowered to $6 and finally to the present $8 -- over 15 years ago.

Councilmember Brewer agreed a $10 fee seemed right; but  Boone argued that since the beach is meant primarily for the use of Fairhopers and "they are not the problem" -- a $25/car fee on "out of towners" was more appropriate.

The mayor said he thought that that since federal dollars have been spent there the general public had to have access -- and the fees needed to be "fair and reasonable." 

He was to research the matter further to determine exact costs to the city -- and if there is a legal-maximum they could charge, according to any federal or state regulations.


NEW PATROL OFFICIAL TO BE HIRED

Currently, a regular police officer must witness the offense to issue citations for littering, but a new (non police) part-time official is to be hired -- just to patrol the beach and pier areas on weekends/holidays as needed.
 
Municipal littering fines are $50 for the first offense, and $100 for subsequent ones; councilman Burrell said he thought issuing more citations was the answer, even though collecting the fines on non-residents may be problematic.

For the time being, the mayor said the entrance booth is to remain open later, until 7PM.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Manley Road New Sidewalk Construction

Fairhope, Alabama


New Manley Rd. sidewalk


A sidewalk funded by the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation is being constructed down a portion the north side of Manley Road in east Fairhope to provide access to the new soccer complex and another route to school for neighborhood children.

Utility and drainage issues may require it to shift to the south side of the road at some point.

The city has applied for a grant that should eventually provide the funding to connect it to a new walking trail along CR13, that is not within the city limits.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

New Fairhope Cancer Treatment Clinic Groundbreaking

Fairhope, Alabama



groundbreaking last week


Ground was broken recently for the new $2.8 million Fairhope office of the University of South Alabama Mitchell Cancer Institute's 'Academic Cancer Center of the Gulf Coast'  -- on 2 acres of vacant land along Fairhope Avenue west of the courthouse.

According to a press release, the facility will give Baldwin county residents better "access to cutting edge research and clinical trials" in its search for a cure for the disease: about 30% of the institutes 50K yearly patients come from Baldwin County.

 Plans call for the 11,000-square-foot office to include exam rooms, cancer treatment areas and physicians’ offices when it is completed in early 2017.

Designed by WHLC Architecture of Fairhope, the building will be constructed next to the Baldwin County Satellite Courthouse in Fairhope and will replace the current MCI office located inside the Thomas Hospital Medical Office Building.

The 2-acre property was purchased from the Arthur Corte family.

Vince Kilborn
Fairhope attorney Vince Kilborn donated $1.5 million to the cost of the 11,000 sq ft facility, which will open in 2017 when the existing smaller clinic at Thomas Hospital will relocate.

The gift will establish the Vincent F. Kilborn III Endowment that will support the new office’s operations.

The state is also providing funding.

USA President Tony Waldrop thanked the Mitchell family for perceiving the need for a research-based cancer center in South Alabama. Created in 2001, the Mitchell Cancer Institute was modeled after the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute in Tampa, Fla. MCI employs about 300 people, including health-care providers, cancer researchers and staff, and is the only cancer treatment and research institute located on the Gulf Coast corridor.

In addition to offices in Mobile and Fairhope, MCI also operates a patient treatment location at Monroe County Hospital in Monroeville.


 TRAFFIC ISSUES

Fairhope Avenue site
Access will be via a new driveway and at least one of the Darlington Oak street trees on Fairhope Avenue would be removed, according to the site plan reviewed by the city's planning commission last year; but new landscaping would be provided.

A sidewalk was requested as well by the commission; but city ordinances requiring one do not apply to state property.




cancer patient addressed crowd





Sunday, May 1, 2016

Council Approved Clay Tennis Courts

Fairhope, Alabama






Bringing a years-long debate to an end, by a 3-2 margin the city council approved building six clay, self-watering hydra-courts at Stimpson Field just south of the clubhouse -- costing about $409K (lighting not included).

Local American Asphalt Inc. with subcontractor tennis-specialist All Star Courts of Covington  Louisiana, was the low bidder.

Councilpersons Burrell, Mueller and Brewer voted in favor and Ford and Boone against, favoring hard asphalt surfaces instead. (Boone owns property nearby)

Most Tennis Association members supported the clay, because it is easier on seniors with aging joints; but it will require more maintenance.

A full-time tennis pro will be hired as well and should be able to help with the added maintenance (one would have been hired even if hard courts were built).

Plans are to charge a fee for the use of the clay courts to offset added costs.