Saturday, July 21, 2018

More Fairhope History Lost

Fairhope, Alabama



The home of  another one of the city's famous former residents has been demolished.

Lydia Comings
Lydia Newcomb Comings, a teacher, lecturer and author, was born in Spring lake Illinois in 1850, married Samuel Comings in Illinois in 1902 and moved to Fairhope shortly after where she co-founded the School of Organic Education in 1907 (with Marietta Johnson and three other women).

Husband Samuel wrote an essay 'Industrial and Vocational Education: Universal and Self Sustaining' advocating Froebel's Kindergarten philosophy; he died in 1915 of a stroke.

Lydia toured the country with Johnson giving lectures on single tax theory and organic education.

She was president of that school's Board of Trustees for many years ... and president of the Library Association of Fairhope for over 40 years.

Comings was also active in the women's suffrage movement of the early 20th century and was instrumental in expanding physical education programs in schools across the country.

She helped start the Baldwin County Historical Society in 1923 and authored 'A Brief History of Baldwin County' in 1928; she also authored 'Muscular Exercises for Health and Grace in 1893.'

Comings died in 1946 at age 96 and is buried in the Colony Cemetery.

A meeting hall on the old Organic School campus (now the Faulkner Campus) was named for her, it was demolished too.

A new city ordinance to encourage preservation of historic structures was drawn up years ago but never adopted by a succession of city councils; there is a new proposal for a heritage village where old homes could be moved, rather than demolished.

Back To School Event At Methodist Church

Fairhope, Alabama


Parents and children turned out in stifling morning heat to the Fairhope Methodist Church for free haircuts and other items (notebooks, backpacks) for those in need in preparation for the start of the new school year August 15th.

The kids took advantage of numerous water slides and other activities to cool off.

The annual event is sponsored by the Fairhope Police Department, Volunteer Fire Department, local churches and Rotary Club.

Friday, July 20, 2018

High Fecal Bacteria Reported In Bay

Fairhope, Alabama


Unusually high test results for e-coli bacteria in bay water continued for the second day at municipal beach ... and Volanta Avenue beach; readings at both locations actually rose from the day before (Wednesday).

Readings at the Orange Avenue pier fell back into the normal range though.

 No city sanitary sewage overflows have been reported.

Bacteria often spikes during Summer months after heavy rain, when material from land is washed into the bay.

Fridays new test results won't be known until tomorrow, since it takes 24 hours to incubate the samples.

Possible sources: municipal sewage overflows (none reported so far in this case), malfunctioning private septic tanks, boats discharging sewage directly overboard, animals (ie pets, cows, birds,  and geese). Some bacteria may actually live in sand as well.

Municipal beach (yesterday)

Volanta Avenue beach test (yesterday)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Drive-By Shooting Drug Related

Fairhope, Alabama


According to police sources, the recent drive by shooting on Founders Drive was drug related and those involved were acquainted.

A second house next door was also struck with a bullet; perpetrators are "off the street" now, the source said.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

New City Website Debuts

Fairhope, Alabama

The city's new user-friendly website was rolled out today; the address has changed from a .com to a more-appropriate .gov. (click)

Vision Technology Solutions Llc. of California assisted the city's IT staff and Community Affairs Director Botop with the project.

Expect intermittent interruptions while bugs are worked out.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Fairhope Government Reform Proposal Takes Next Step

Fairhope, Alabama


A petition drive by the Fresh Start Fairhope group of disgruntled citizens to hold a voter referendum to reform what they see as the city's broken government has been successfully certified by the Judge of Probate ... and an election set for October.

Press release:

"The FRESH START FAIRHOPE initiative has been organized and managed by a group of Fairhope residents who seek to provide, for consideration by the voters of the city of Fairhope, an alternative form of government to move the city of Fairhope forward at a critical time in the development of this fine city."

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Former Hardees To Be Demolished

Fairhope, Alabama

Eastern Shore Shopping Center

Building official Cortinas says the old Hardee's restaurant building on Greeno Road is to be demolished; he could not confirm rumors that Starbuck's is planning to construct a coffee shop there.

A sign on the door indicated Hardee's was looking for another local location.

The store opened there in the 1970's, according to local historians.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Old Staircases To Finally Be Replaced?

Fairhope, Alabama


Three sets of 1980's-era wooden staircases leading down the bluff may be replaced soon, according to Public Works Director Johnson.

Fairhope Avenue stairs
Several broken or damaged treads were replaced recently, but the entire structures are leaning and in need of attention due to age and wear; their narrow width make them effectively "one way" only and splintering is a problem.

Although Johnson did not mention any special design, several proposals have been made over the years including using brick for the one on Fairhope Avenue (to Henry George Park) for appearance sake, more "artsy" designs (possibly funded by citizens' donations), and even using a staircase in Santa Monica, California as a template for another.

Using switchbacks or ramps has been suggested to lessen incline.

RESTORE ACT grant funds are to be used.

Also, the restroom at the entrance to the beach park is to be replaced and the one to the north remodeled, he said.

Santa Monica, California

Thursday, July 12, 2018

City Leaders Favor School Tax Referendum

Fairhope, Alabama

July EAC meeting


Councilmen Burrell, Boone, Conyers, and Brown told Educational Advisory Committee members they would support holding a referendum to allow residents in the Fairhope feeder pattern (School District 6) to vote on forming a special tax district to supplement Baldwin County Schools with up to an additional 3 mils of property tax.

Three mils would add only about $75 to the annual tax for a typical home, they said.

They emphasized their support at this point is for only holding a referendum, to let voters decide, not necessarily whether they would support the tax increase themselves.

Mayor Wilson also supported allowing a referendum to be held -- but possibly with a lesser amount, 1 or 2 mils instead that would be more likely to be approved by voters.

Wilson said the city already supplements schools with about $1.1 million annually, mostly with in-kind services for various school-related recreational services, and the new tax district would spread that burden around more equitably -- to those living outside city limits as well.

The special district's boundaries would be roughly the same as the current school district.

Ken Cole presided over the meeting.


EAC committee members were to meet with local principals and Board of Education representatives to come up with a "vision" for Fairhope schools ... to use in a campaign for the new tax, before the council sets a date for the referendum, possibly next year.

Earmarking the money for more teacher units and/or school construction were the  priorities mentioned.

Committee members emphasized the need for city leadership to endorse and promote the proposal to insure passage, but there was some disagreement about how much they could become involved under Alabama law ... and what actually constitutes "political activity" and the public interest.

(An 2003 attorney general's opinion has been used by the School Board as justification for openly advocating for tax campaigns in the past.

From an report about a 2015 school tax referendum:
"Whereas, according to school officials, the Baldwin County school system has likely spent more than $200,000 of public funds during the campaign, which includes election costs.
Based in part on the outcry by opponents, State Auditor Jim Ziegler challenged the system's use of taxpayer money to lobby for more taxpayer money. But the legal argument school officials used to justify the move came from the Attorney General's Office in 2003, and on Monday Attorney General Luther Strange certified the argument was still valid, as it served the public interest.")

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Updated: New City Website Debuts This Week?

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: The launch of the new website has been delayed until next week.


The city's new "user-friendly" website will be unveiled this week (hopefully), according to community affairs director Sherry-Lea Botop who is assisting in the update along with other IT department employees.

Botop:  " ... we renewed our contract with Vision (our current provider) and they allowed us an “upgrade” if you will. However, that “upgrade” was pretty minimal and I have been leading all of the content writing, updating, reconfiguration and photo-taking/gathering for the project ...  It has been incredibly time consuming and will still need more work after it launches as we continue to make it as user-friendly as possible for citizens and visitors. We will be adding 360 videos and more interactive things moving forward. It will still be much more accessible than the previous site."

Vision Internet Providers of El Segundo, California designed the new website; they designed the current one as well, six years ago (click).

The three year contract approved by the city council last February is not to exceed $31K for their services.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Butterfly Benefit Art Project Underway

Fairhope, Alabama


Award-winning directors Fairn Whatley and Suzanne Damrich created  videos of citizens releasing monarch butterflies, to be included in the screening of The Mystical Migration of the Monarch film at the ESAC on September 22, 2018 ... to  support the Eastern Shore Art Center and programs to save the dwindling Monarch populations.

An additional  mixed media monarch art camp begins August 7th (click).

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Council To Consider Utility Rate Hikes

Fairhope, Alabama

Facebook poll


An online  poll conducted by the Times recently indicated little support for utility rate hikes to pay for necessary (utility) upgrades the city council will consider during its regular meeting this week;  those participating indicated a preference for spending cuts instead.

Some utility profits are transferred to the city's general fund, to help run other city departments.


Also on the agenda (coincidentally?) is extending the contract for installing the annual holiday lights in the trees downtown for $147, 800; this is one item that has been mentioned over the years for possible spending cuts, but never followed through on. (The lights last only one season, cannot be re-used.)

Other possible spending reductions mentioned periodically:

* Subsidies to Baldwin County Schools mostly for recreation: about $900K/year.

* Subsidies for the airport mostly for debt service: about $490K/year average. ($534K in 2015, $320K this year.)

* Reducing garbage pick up to once a week saving about $600K/year.

* Reduce spending on flowers.