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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Transparency Slipping At School Board Meetings?

Fairhope, Alabama




NO LONGER BEING TELEVISED

After their regular Board meeting last Thursday, Baldwin School Board spokesperson Wilhite told the Times meetings are no longer being live streamed ... because the "equipment is broken."

The Times encountered the problem while doing research on the  K-1 school purchase issue.

Meetings are still being recorded but as of last Wednesday the most recent ones posted to the Board's Vimeo website were from last May; but since we questioned it Thursday the more recent ones were posted as well.

Televising and recording meetings was begun several years ago during school tax renewal campaigns, amid promises of complete transparency.

We also noticed another possible open meeting law violation at the end of the same meeting.



Vimeo site last Wednesday (9-2018)



Saturday, September 22, 2018

Monarch Butterfly Day At Art Center

Fairhope, Alabama




FUNDRAISER FOR CENTER AND MONARCH CONSERVATION

There was a big turnout today for 'Art of the Butterfly' day at the Eastern Shore Art Center.

There were art projects for kids, conservation information was distributed,  butterfly attracting plants were sold, and the Monarch Conservancy's film 'The Mystical Migration of the Monarch' was screened.

The Monarch butterfly is the official insect of the state of Alabama, according to material distributed; their numbers are declining due to destruction of their favorite plant, milkweed.

"Monarchs are more active in the state during the Fall/Spring migration but small numbers stay in the area instead of migrating further north."

The Fall migration back to central Mexico is underway now.






Friday, September 21, 2018

New Car Wash Opening Early Next Year

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: We referred to this as a full-service car wash in an earlier post; that may not be technically correct.



ACROSS FROM WALGREENS DRUGSTORE

A 'Pit Stop' car wash will be opening on 1.5 acres at 809 Fairhope Avenue in January, according to a company news release.

State-of-the-art cleaning equipment and free vacuums will be provided to deliver "A Clean Car Fast."

A basic wash is $6 and takes 4 minutes, according to the company's website (click).

Other locations along the Gulf Coast include Slidell, La. and Gulfport, Ms.


809 Fairhope Avenue

Thursday, September 20, 2018

COMMENTARY: DON'T DENY CITIZENS A TIMELY VOTE

Fairhope, Alabama


LET THE REFERENDUM PROCEED AS SCHEDULED

Its disappointing the city council has chosen to essentially intervene on behalf of the opposition and ask the courts to call off or delay the October 2nd government reform referendum, effectively pulling the rug from under the grass-roots group organizing it ... and the over 800 citizens who signed their petition (in only 2 weeks time). 

Elections are sacred, we know of no other instance where one has been called off after being duly scheduled (except for weather disasters) and hope the court will not set an unwise precedent by not allowing this one to go ahead too.

Many have fought and died protecting our right to vote where the people decide the issue one way or another in a democratic fashion as they see fit; any one of them may change their mind as new facts become available in the intervening two weeks.

Giving the opposition more time to organize, if that's the real end game as has been suggested, is a slap-in-the-face of proponents who have diligently followed the timeline prescribed by the Judge of Probate two months ago.

Afterward, private individuals may challenge the result in the usual manner ... or the city ask courts for direction as necessary: its not the place of city government to choose sides before the vote.

Citizens always have the option to petition for another election as well.

By promoting more chaos and division and rebuking those whose only agenda is better government,  the city council is only making Fresh Start's point that reform is sorely needed.

In the face of rapid growth and development, it is extremely important Fairhope's government be the most effective and efficient as possible; a succession of election cycles have failed to bring that about.

EDITOR


Update: A forum about this matter has been scheduled.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Knoll Park Declared A Sanctuary for Butterflies

Fairhope, Alabama




MONARCH MIGRATION UNDERWAY

After hearing a presentation from Barry Gaston, the city's tree and parks committee voted to recommend declaring Knoll Park a butterfly sanctuary and to install plants that attract the insects, especially milkweed.

Gaston standing.
Gaston, a former organic school teacher, said butterfly habitats are being wiped out by development and establishing one here with informational signs could be educational for adults and children.

Volunteers are to distribute seeds in the park and plant plugs in the buffer around it (butterfly bush); signs could be provided for less than $100.

Monarch butterflies migrate in Spring and Fall to and from Mexico where they overwinter; various other species are native to Fairhope as well.

A similar butterfly project was installed at Magnolia Beach near the American Legion Hall several years ago.

MAYOR SIGNS BUTTERFLY PLEDGE

During the last city council meeting, mayor Wilson said she had signed the Mayor's Monarch Butterfly Pledge, a national effort to save the insect (click).

The Eastern Shore Art Center is holding an event called the 'Art of the Butterfly' Saturday, Sept. 22 beginning 11AM.


New mural at library

CONTROLLED BURN PLANNED FOR PARK

Last weekend, the Friends of Knoll Park citizens' group were preparing the park for another controlled burn, a component of the ongoing long leaf pine restoration project.

The burn will most likely be in October, weather permitting, according to retired forester Patrick Waldrop, a member of the organization.


Monarch butterfly migration

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Updated: Water Tower Painters To Get Second Chance

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: The full city council must still pass a resolution approving this.

Fairhope Avenue tank

CELL PHONE SERVICE ISSUES CONTINUE

After meeting with two council members (Boone, Brown) and city utility department staff, it has been decided to give the company contracted to paint the city's 2 million gallon water tower (Utility Service Company) more time to complete the project even though it was due to be completed two months ago.

The new completion date is no-later-than mid-December when higher penalties may be imposed if still not finished.

The reason given for the delay is inability to find qualified labor; calling the "performance bond" and getting another company to compete the job would probably take much longer, according to the councilmen.

"They don't want to have it on their record" so they solicited and received more help from all around the country, a city source says.

The company's bid was $973,400 (see below); a penalty of $200/day is being imposed for non-completion.

No payments have been made yet by the city, however.

A subcontractor was hired by the company for much of the work.


WATER SUPPLY NOT AN ISSUE

Due to the rainy Summer, the water supply has never been in doubt, but cell phone service continues to be poor on the east side for customers of the three companies who had antennas on top; some city communications have been affected as well.



Monday, September 17, 2018

'Fairhope Docks' on Fly Creek Seeking New Manager

Fairhope, Alabama


Kuhl at left

HARBOR BOARD MEETS

The city's Harbor Board, now just another advisory committee, met and elected new officers: Skip Jones was unanimously chosen as its new chairman.

Recreation Department Director Tom Kuhl told the group that Drew Craze the city's Fly Creek marina manager for the past year had resigned for undisclosed reasons ... and interviews were already underway for his replacement (out of 12 applicants).

Craze's assistant and two part-time helpers are operating the facility while a replacement is being selected.


BOAT STORAGE OR BOAT MAINTENANCE?

Fly Creek Docks
Kuhl told the group a decision has not been made yet whether to lease out the vacant buildings to another boatyard operator  or to convert the area to dry boat storage instead.

The city does not want to be in the "boat yard business" itself but it may prove problematic to find someone else to operate it; extensive repairs are still needed to the lift cell area and the travel lift itself, Kuhl said.

Boat storage may be  more amenable to the "clean marina" goal for the area, according to member Riggs.

An engineer has been hired to look at repairs to electrical service for the slips,  and a re-do of an area of collapsed bulkhead.

A new master plan for the area is still being considered, Kuhl said.


DREDGING STILL NEEDED

Kuhl said money has been included in next year's budget for a small dredge, to keep the slips, basin and docks at a suitable depth(6'); the Fairhope Yacht Club plans to dredge the main channel out into the bay ... but its not known if or how the city will participate.

Residents along the upper creek still want it dredged there too.


Lift problems

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Coastal Cleanup Day 2018

Fairhope, Alabama




 Volunteers helped employees clean up the city's waterfront during the annual cleanup (click).










Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Councilman Says "Somebody's Going to Get Killed"

Fairhope, Alabama

Dangerous Pine Ave./Section St. intersection

TRAFFIC SAFETY CONCERNS MOUNTING

Cathy Fernandez
A Fairhope resident brought her concerns about traffic issues in the downtown area especially to the city council recently: Cathy Fernadez said she was nearly hit by a speeding car as she attempted to turn out onto Section Street from Pine Avenue.

She said vision is being impaired by parked cars at this and other intersections downtown; delivery trucks often block streets as well.

Fernandez wanted to know what is being done to address such safety issues including:

* Status of the back-in parking experiment on Johnson Avenue?
* Status of the city's Street and Traffic Control Committee?
* Status of the "Creating a Vision and Plan for Improved Parking" study?
* Parking plans for the new 'Portico' project, a potential bottleneck/hazard at the post office?


COUNCILMAN AGREES

Equality at Section Streets
Agreeing there is a problem there, councilman Robert Brown said he had asked the candidates for police chief about it during interviews at the previous meeting; Brown cited a severe  instance of speeding on Morphy Avenue he personally witnessed.

Brown: "Somebody's going to get killed." 

Most of the candidates for chief replied it would take cooperation by the mayor, council, and chief to effectively address the problems.

Fernandez could bring her concerns to the city's Bike and Pedestrian committee as well, he said.


PROPOSALS  FOR SOLUTIONS COMING

Bancroft at Fairhope Ave.
Public Works director Johnson and Community Affairs Director Botop said plans for remedies are in the works;  they hope to bring them to the council for consideration and approval shortly.

Removing parking spaces at intersections to improve visibility, speed calming devices, and pedestrian "safety strips" are some things being considered, Johnson said.

The reverse angle parking on Johnson Ave. has only been semi-successful so far.

A plan to increase usage of the parking garage is just beginning to be implemented, according to Botop.

Reverse angle parking problematic

INTERSECTION MODIFICATION STUDY SHELVED

 A 2015 engineering study to improve the city's worst intersections has never been completely implemented (click).

The city's automatic speed indicator trailer is broken again, according to police department sources.




Video of speeding on Fairhope Avenue:





Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Municipal Pool Building Repair Underway Too

Fairhope, Alabama


Backside of pool building

LATEST BUILDING TO GET ATTENTION

After years of delay repairs to the municipal pool building have started, joining several other projects currently underway ... including the library, golf clubhouse, and park restrooms.

Gailliard Builders was awarded the repair bid, for $155,936, last month.

July 2016
Roof soffits at the rear of the building collapsed about two years ago and had to be shored up with two by fours; there was no hazard for occupants of the building however.

Moisture buildup overhead inside the building due to poor ventilation caused corrosion of the metal supports and connectors holding up the facade.

Better building maintenance has been made a priority by the current administration, possibly by adding a new building maintenance department.


front side



Saturday, September 8, 2018

New History Museum Director Selected

Fairhope, Alabama


Philip Bolin at left

The Times has learned that Philip Bolin will become the city's second museum of history director, replacing Donnie Barrett who will be retiring at the end of the month. 

An artist himself, Bolin has been assistant director at the Cathedral Square art gallery in Mobile; he  worked as an archaeologist at the Five Rivers Delta Center on the causeway before that.

Bolin has a degree in anthropology from the University of South Alabama; he has written papers including the "Architectural History of the Battles House Hotel" and "On the Edge of Memory: An Explanation of Sacred Geometry."

He is a member of the American Anthropological Association.











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Friday, September 7, 2018

Library Reopens As Repairs Begin

Fairhope, Alabama





 
The library has reopened after leaking windows were removed and boarded up recently; the $1.1 million project should be completed by January 1st.