Sunday, October 25, 2015

UPDATED: Council To Take Up Controversial Issues

Fairhope, Alabama

Updated to include video at bottom: 


Several interesting and potentially-contentious issues are on the agenda for final approval at Monday's meeting: among them are the 'Shux Shuttle' driving on the pier, a new automatic 'Labor Cost Adjustment' for customers' utility bills, and a last-minute $35K/yr. donation to the Senior Bowl, ostensibly to keep its practices here.

The meeting begins at 6PM, but they may be discussed during the 4:30 work session as well.

Council members are not permitted to discuss such matters privately: it must always be before the public according to state open meeting laws.

1. 'Shux Shuttle' matter:

Shux Shuttle
An amendment  to the current  ordinance prohibiting any vehicles on the pier will be presented to the council to allow the lessee of the marina and restaurant building (currently Rick Gambino) to operate a golf cart-type vehicle to transport "disabled" or "handicapped" customers.

According to the  discussion at a council work-session two weeks ago (subject to change), the driver is to determine who qualifies as handicapped -- and it will be broadly defined to possibly include frail elderly, anyone recovering from illness or surgery, as well as the non-handicapped accompanying the qualified  individual.

Gambino said he thought "only a handful of anonymous people" were complaining -- who "wanted to shut us down from day one." He said he would like to talk to them to "find out how it affects their daily life" or "do they just like to go out and push people around."  (see video below)

The cart will be allowed to operate at-will on city streets; but a parking place will be designated for it in the pier lot, according to the discussion at a prior meeting.

Adding to the confusion, the mayor admitted for the first time in a public meeting he had already made an arrangement to allow it (oral agreement) well before the lease was transferred from former 'Yardarm' restaurant operator Bob Pope last Spring (The Mayor told the Times councilman Burrell knew as well; it is not know if any of the others were informed).

Mayor Kant: "When Rick came to me about the lease .... he had one request ... to make sure he had a shuttle ... from day one. Problem is ... a lot of people on the pier at one time ... don't know how to deal with that."

Councilman Burell said the council may want to put a moratorium on the shuttle for a while: "We shouldn't violate our own rules ... shouldn't say Rick can violate the law ... ."

boat sank in 2006
Still another complication arose when the state suddenly wanted to begin collecting taxes, on the restaurant since it is over state waters.

Why that was never done before remains un-explained too.

(In another strange twist,  apparently the second boat that sank in the pier marina in 2006 was finally removed last week.)

2. New Utility 'Labor Cost Adjustments' ordinance:

A new factor to the complex equations used to calculate citizens' utility rates will be voted on as well.

The 'Additional Labor Cost Factor' will adjust electric, water, sewer and natural gas rates upwards automatically as operational (labor) costs increase: presumably salary increases, new hires, and overtime as well (details not yet spelled out publicly).

During an earlier discussion, Councilman Burrell seemed to generally support the proposal -- but warned about the potential for abuse.

Currently, rate studies are done every ten years or so (according to mayor) to determine if the council needs to manually raise rates to compensate for higher employee costs  (by majority vote in a public meeting).

3. Big Senior Bowl donation's final vote:

Cooper at center.
A last-minute $35K yearly donation requested by Senior Bowl president Angus Cooper is also on the agenda for final approval: He threatened the twice-yearly practices (north and south teams) may be moved to Mobile if not.

Such requests for 'Community Development Funds' (taken from customers' utility bills) are usually required to be in by July; but last year Cooper was instrumental in obtaining a $35K yearly donation to Thomas Hospital for its new Birth Center as well (it was also submitted at the last-minute).. 

Two council members wanted to reduce the Senior Bowl amount somewhat (Brewer some, Burrell a lot); but the other three (a majority) supported the whole amount requested.

A major complication to this one emerged when it was suddenly revealed that Cooper had recently hosted a political event for mayor Kant at a home in Pt. Clear: Kant confirmed the event to the Times -- but said he had no vote in the matter and only brought it to the council for its consideration.

Also, campaign finance records reveal an event in September where Cooper donated $2,000  himself to the Kant re-election campaign and his company, Cooper T. Smith Inc. provided another $4,000 for food for the event. Several other individual Cooper family members donated individually as well. In all, over $40,000 was donated during September to re-elect the mayor.


The city council could decide to approve each item (by majority 3-2 vote) or allow it to lay over for two weeks before final adoption;  in some cases it may vote for "immediate consideration" (final approval on the spot) but all council members must agree for that to happen.

The mayor has no vote, but he may veto ordinances in most cases.


Anonymous said...

What is going on with the "big" town hall meeting about the future development along corridors such as Greeno Road and 181? Thought that was suppose to happen in October. Narely another word about it.

Anonymous said...

Must be they discussed it in private.

Anonymous said...

Guess it suddenly dawned on him ... there are a lot of people trying to walk on the pier ... duh ...

Anonymous said...

I had the disstinked displeasure of walking behind the Stinks Shuttle a couple days ago as it was ferrying garbage, not people from the restaurant. Not my first encounter with that thing. I've also seen garbage dumped into the bay on the West side of the restaurant. Than there’s that backup beeper disturbing the peace. That things a nuisance. No it’s not just a few complaining. One man’s greed and arrogance is ruining the pier.

Anonymous said...

A book like the one written about Savannah Ga. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil should be written about Fairhope. How about Daylight With Ego’s, Greed, and Good Ole Boy’s.

Anonymous said...

Gambinos are good people they done a lot for this town. it should be allowed. doing no harm.

Publisher said...

Try not to let this discussion get out of hand, please.

Anonymous said...

I agree. It does no harm. Leave it alone.

Anonymous said...

The motorized cart is a hazard to other pier users such as those walking and fishing. The cart operators that I've witnessed seem to drive too fast and carelessly. Saturday night the "Shuttle" was in town and the driver was texting and driving on Fairhope Ave. Doing so on the pier might put them "in the drink" along with innocent bystanders or riders. There are plenty of places to eat that require a little walking to reach the dining room. True handicapped persons usually have a walker or wheelchair to reach such places. If the shuttle is just a perk or convenience - just say so - don't pretend it's for the handicapped.

Anonymous said...

The bird shit and fish mess is more hazadrous ... a bio-hazard.

Anonymous said...

Tim's sneaky, learned it from Nix and Ford. He is raking in all the cash he can now to give it to his council candidates via the Brighter Baldwin PAC ,just like last time.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they just park a couple of little carts like they have in Walmart at the front end of the pier so disabled or sick people can use them? why make it a big issue?

Anonymous said...

Please, tell me what Gambino has done for Fairhope.

John Adams said...

Shuttle: Have the company interested in operating the shuttle submit the Standard Operating Procedures for the vehicle to the City Council. If our elected officials are comfortable with what is proposed and The People are not then it will be our responsibility to remove them in the next election. This should be an easy issue that can be worked out between The City and the business owner.

Senior Bowl: The group requesting the money from The City does not appear to have presented economic impact information to the city council. Our elected officials have let us down if this information was not requested or if it was not presented and they approved the funding. Statements from the council members would be very interesting in how they formed their opinions to spend the cities money.

The State and The Pier: More information in The State's attempt to tax a business on The Pier would be helpful. How is this restaurant different from one that is not on a pier? Does The State currently pay for the maintenance of The Pier? Does The State currently pay for the maintenance of the marina that is attached to The Pier? There are so many possibilities for this situation that more information is needed for anyone to form an intelligent opinion.

Our elected officials have guidelines, rules, and regulations on how the city is to run. From the reporting it appears that The Mayor is using his position to work with businessmen to increase the economical impact entrepreneurs can have in The City. However, it also appears that The Mayor is unfamiliar or is choosing to ignore the guidelines, rules, and regulations that are in place in The City and is bullying The City Council. As citizens we have the power of The Vote and the responsibility to let our elected officials know when we are not happy with their actions. As long as we remain silent and continue to reelect the government officials that are more interested in personal gain, we will have to live with our decisions.

A city that works with entrepreneurs to have a positive economic impact on The City will continue to attract more residents and more entrepreneurs. It will also continue to attract more sinister businesses and politicians because of it's success. It will be our responsibility to control the elected officials through our votes.

Publisher said...

In response to the first comment, the revised comprehensive plan should be posted online by the first week in November for feedback from citizens; no town hall date has been finalized yet, though (according to Planning Dept's J. Smith)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update. Can depend on The Fairhope Times to keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

Typical Kant "under the table deal" to his cronies.

If the current ordinance says no vehicles on the pier - enforce it. Or enter into a formal agreement with Gambino to pay for the privilege of having this eyesore shuttle his customers to and from the restaurant since he is the one benefitting from this arrangement.

And when you do that pay attention to the line that has been crossed here. It will require additional enforcement to keep other vehicles, bicycles, golf carts, go carts, etc. off of the pier. Do we want our police officers doing that?

When Shux fails - and the food and service are so bad that there is a good probability of that - you are going to be dealing with the aftermath of this one stupid decision to placate the mayor and Mr. Gambino.

This isn't rocket science. This is typical Fairhope.