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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Decision Imminent On Fairhope BP Project Proposals

Fairhope, Alabama

Alabama Recovery Council

ANNOUNCEMENT EXPECTED

A decision by the ten member Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council is expected any day about the fate of four projects submitted by the city of Fairhope (out of a total of 330 submitted) to distribute about $160 million in Clean Water Act fines awarded the state resulting from the BP Oil Spill disaster in 2010.

Jo Bonner is the council's chairman and  various area mayors are ex-officio members, including Mayor Wilson.

 Fairhope's proposed projects (totaling over $17 million) are:

* Project # 331 requests $650,000 to "develop a community based comprehensive plan ... that will incorporate all previous planning efforts  ... and create a long-term vision in the planning jurisdiction."

* Project # 332 requests $6.2 million to "provide a working waterfront including public spaces ... contribute to the re-development of the city's clean marina on Fly Creek ... implement recommendations of the Beach Management Plan ... and a comprehensive bluff and shoreline stabilization plan ... and planning and re-development of waterfront park areas."

* Project # 396 requests $10 million for sewer system upgrades including "complete replacement of four main pumping stations .... and rehabilitation of major gravity and clay collection lines."

* Project # 412 requests $1 million to "develop a sanitary sewer overflow prevention plan to ... identify short term needs ... to capture excess flows into the sewer system to provide environmental protection for Mobile Bay."

 
IMPACTS TO CITY BUDGET

How the city will fund the projects if its proposals are rejected by the Recovery Council could have significant impact on city budgets, especially the $10 million upgrade to the sewage collection system and for the working waterfront marina, both are already in the early stages of implementation.


STILL NEEDS FEDERAL APPROVAL

According to the confusing decision-making flow chart, after a 'final state expenditure plan' is approved, it still must be submitted to the Federal Restoration Council for its approval before grants can be made by the US Treasury.

Currently the process appears to be moving through the upper right boxes on the chart.




Saturday, February 24, 2018

Electric System Upgrades Inch Forward

Fairhope, Alabama

Nichols Avenue substation to be dismantled

CONSIDERED THE MOST URGENT

The city council selected Stewart Engineering for engineering services to upgrade electric substations and distribution circuitry for not to exceed $636,812.

Phase One of the project consists of constructing a new "double" substation somewhere along Young Street to replace the existing aging ones on Nichols Avenue and on Church Street. The load on the Nichols station has been steadily growing due to Thomas Hospital expansions.

Phase Two replaces transformers at the Twin Beech substation with larger ones as well as new circuit breakers and various other equipment.

Phase Three upgrades the transformer and other equipment at the Fairhope Avenue substation and Phase Four the same at the Volanta Avenue substation.

Estimated total cost for the upgrades (excluding engineering services) is $8,350,000 million; the money may be borrowed and rates increased increased as necessary.

Because of increasing capacity demands, the condition of equipment, and long procurement time for new transformers (8 months?) electric upgrades are considered to be the most urgent of the city's four utilities.


Church Street substation to be dismantled




Tuesday, February 20, 2018

How To Help Stop Sewage Overflows

Fairhope, Alabama

Near Homestead Village recently

STOP STORMWATER INTRUSION

One main cause of frequent overflows from manholes and lift stations around town during storms is rainwater getting into the city's sewage pipes; it is sometimes done deliberately to drain standing water from yards as shown in the photo above from a field near the Homestead Village retirement community in east Fairhope -- where someone wedged a manhole open to drain their property.

Damaged or removed sewer clean-out pipe caps in private citizens' yards is also a problem; smoke testing is one way to locate leaks.

Utility Operations Director Richard Peterson urges citizens to inspect sewer access caps on their property for damage and to report other issues they may see to the Utility Department:

"This is an example of how the public can help reduce storm water inflow and the overflows that can result from it. If the public can notify Fairhope Utilities of such breaches in the sewer system, including broken cleanouts, we can mitigate these issues sooner than later."


Damaged clean out pipe in yard

smoke testing for leaks

OTHER CAUSES

Flushing rags, grease, sanitary napkins, "flush-able wipes," etc. (anything but toilet paper) down toilets is also discouraged because that may clog the system as well.

Aging clay underground pipes and brick manholes are also major sources of intrusion: they must be replaced or re-lined.

The city council just authorized purchase of a new miniature camera inspection system to identify problems inside pipes.


NEW ORDINANCE DISCUSSED

During the last council meeting a city ordinance penalizing the deliberate draining of standing water from private property into the city's sewage system was discussed; council president Burrell said the council would no doubt pass it if one were developed.


Brick sewer manhole


Peterson at left





Monday, February 19, 2018

Second Rose Garden Project Proposal Rejected Too

Fairhope, Alabama



FEBRUARY BOARD OF ADJUSTMENTS MEETING

After his first proposal for a three story, multi-occupancy, condominium was rejected several months ago,  a new one from property owner Bob Pope for a two story restaurant/coffee/ice cream/gift shop to be located at the base of the bluff east of the rose garden (4 Beach Road) was turned down as well today by the city's Board of Adjustments and Appeals for similar reasons (4-1 vote).

Board members had concerns about parking, damage to the bluff, blocking the view, and generally how it would fit into the surrounding parkland setting.

City staff had recommended conditional approval of variances Pope requested to existing setback requirements that currently only permit building on a narrow 90' x 4' portion of the property; that constitutes an "unreasonable hardship" -- and technically a justification for the front and rear setback waivers.

Conditions were that he pay for construction of additional parking spaces and install a new sidewalk in front of the business.

Two citizens who live in the vicinity spoke against, suggesting limiting it to one story instead.

Board members briefly considered tabling the issue until the next meeting to allow staff time to seek a legal opinion about limiting overall height; providing them a drawing or rendering of his proposal may have helped his case.  Pope said he did that last time, and it was costly. 

Pope may appeal the board's decision to circuit court; he may file another variance request at any time.

He said he would sell the property ... for a million dollars.


Pope standing left

Tribute To Former Mayor Nix

Fairhope, Alabama


Gary Scovill

CALLED 'THE SQUIRE OF FAIRHOPE'

A tribute to former seven-term (1972 - 2000) mayor James Nix screened at the Fairhope Baptist Church Sunday.

Producer Gary Scovil of  'Scovil Productions' said he chose "squire" for a title because they "serve" -- in this case a public servant.

Nix's instigation of "beautification" initiatives at bayfront parks and in the dying downtown were credited with a resurrection that led to prosperity and growth continuing to this day.

Nix gave credit to his employees and said the key to his political success was compromise.





Jim and Ann Nix

Former Mayor Kant
 


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Fairhope's Arbor Day 2018

Fairhope, Alabama

Johnson standing at podium

Public works director Richard Johnson, Mayor Wilson, members of the city's Tree Committee and others attended Saturday's annual Arbor Day ceremony on the Coastal Community College Campus in downtown Fairhope.

'Tree city' designation was again awarded to the city by the Alabama Forestry Commission.
The qualifications are:

  • A Tree Board or Department
  • A Tree Care Ordinance
  • A Community Forestry Program (with a an annual budget of at least $2 per capita)
  • An Arbor Day Observance, Proclamation, and Tree Planting Ceremony

Hundreds of tree seedlings were distributed at no charge following the ceremony; recipients are encouraged to water the plants regularly the first year to ensure survival.

When asked by the Times what's their favorite tree, Johnson replied a sycamore, committee chairman Paul Gutenot white oak, the mayor live oak and councilman Robinson ... the lemon tree in his yard.


"The first American Arbor Day was originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska, U.S., by J. Sterling Morton. On April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska.[1]
Birdsey Northrop of Connecticut was responsible for globalizing it when he visited Japan in 1883 and delivered his Arbor Day and Village Improvement message. In that same year, the American Forestry Association made Northrop the Chairman of the committee to campaign for Arbor Day nationwide. He also brought his enthusiasm for Arbor Day to Australia, Canada, and Europe.[2]"


Tree City awarded

Mayor Wilson

Friday, February 16, 2018

Fairhope Attorney To Challenge Representative Faust

Fairhope, Alabama


Danielle Mashburn-Myrick


ALABAMA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

According to a press release from the Baldwin County Democratic Party, Fairhope resident Danielle Mashburn-Myrick has declared her candidacy for the Alabama House District 94 seat currently held by Joe Faust (since 2002).

District  94
Faust,  a life-long resident of Fairhope, is seeking re-election as a Republican.

Fairhope High School graduate Mashburn-Myrick has degrees in classics and philosophy from Rhodes College and in law from the University of Alabama: She is currently employed as an associate with the Phelps/Dunbar law firm in Mobile.

She and husband Matt Myrick have two children.

Both Faust and Mashburn-Myrick are unopposed in their June 5th party primary elections; the general election is November 6th.


Representative Joe Faust

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Preliminary Plan For Fairhope Docks Marina

Fairhope, Alabama

Craze standing at right

HARBOR BOARD SPECIAL MEETING

New marina manager Drew Craze and Lyn Maser presented the preliminary plans developed by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Design Studio using "clean marina" standards for the  reconfiguration of the city's marina on Fly Creek, now called the Fairhope Docks. (See the drawing at bottom.)

The city has been directly managing the 85 slips and boatyard since Eastern Shore Marine's leases expired last Summer; improvements have already been accomplished by public works and recreation department personnel.
travel lift

Repair of the old travel-lift ramp (per engineering analysis), and installation of a new fuel tank and pump-out station nearby should be completed by April so that an RFP (proposal request) can be put out to find a new operator for the boatyard (10 year lease): Craze said he hoped it could all be finalized by Summer.

The old travel-lift (crane for lifting boats out of the water) itself is not salvageable, so the next boatyard operator will most-likely have to lease a new one, Craze said.


Later phases of the plan including seawall and finger pier repairs will be accomplished in phases over several years as funding becomes available: BP RESTORE ACT and other grants have already been applied for.

Some Board members questioned the proposed location of new fencing and gates, what areas are to be set aside for boat maintenance (dry-docked), and the extent of repairs to the travel lift ramp; but after the meeting several told the Times they were generally pleased with the proposal (including councilman Boone).

Craze said he intends to use the old Ice House/17 Turtles building as a marina office for a "year or two" until a permanent place is found.



Old Ice House


DREDGING PLAN COMING

A new plan to begin the long process of applying for permits for dredging the creek channel and around the slips is to be introduced shortly by public works director Richard Johnson, Craze said.

Several Harbor Board members expressed confusion about their committee's role in the process since the Fly Creek marina was made a component of the city and a new marina manager position formed by the council last year, now formally under the auspices of the Recreation Department.

Prior to 2013 the Board was an independent entity, when the city council changed it to an advisory committee only.

The marina at the main pier is a Board responsibility as well.



Proposed marina plan