The public hearing on New Albany’s proposed 2021-2022 budget was held this past week but nobody came – at least to comment on the budget.

None of the aldermen had any issue to bring up and no one else present wanted to comment on the budget, which was essentially set at previous called meetings.

The city board was expected to meet Tuesday this week for a formal vote, required by law to be seven days after the public hearing. While it is possible some last-minute changes could occur, Mayor Tim Kent said none was expected.

The budget as presented does not require a tax increase but does include a three-percent cost-of-living raise for all city employees.

Zoning

One other public hearing was scheduled concerning a zoning change. The planning and zoning board had approved changing the property at 103 South Central from C-2 commercial to R-2 residential. No one objected and aldermen formally approved the change.

Neighborhood flooding

Aldermen spent a considerable part of the meeting discussing a flooding problem in the South Acre Drive area. Resident Cindy Baker spoke on behalf of herself and neighbors concerning flooding that occurs, particularly after a heavy rain. She said the flooding may be the result of the water flow having to take 90-degree turns in several places.

Perhaps a bigger problem she cited is that the water has been under her house enough to cause boards under the house to rot.

Aldermen were sympathetic but said they need more information, such as whether the ditches are privately or city-owned and what other contributing factors could be. In the meantime, they suggested that Baker file a claim with the city’s insurer so that a professional examination of the situation could be made.

Another try concerning Fred's

Light, gas and water department manager Bill Mattox told aldermen he was ready to re-advertise for bids to renovate the former Fred’s building for use as a municipal complex.

Original bids were much higher than anticipated, partly due to increased construction costs, but Mattox said after working diligently on the plans they have the cost down to an estimated $3.7 million. That’s closer to the original estimate and much lower than the $5 million to $6 million bid range.

Officials want to have a bid selected by the first of November, assuming that contractors will be looking for inside work during the winter and this may help lower bid costs.

Aldermen approved advertising for bids.

In other business, Mattox told aldermen his department is ready to do the dirt work for the new electric substation to be built on Hwy. 348. Board members approved advertising the work for bids.

He also got permission to improve the Moss Hill Drive sewage lift station, which will allow the pipe crossing the Tallahatchie River just south of the Bankhead Street bridge to be removed.

Community development

Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud recommended hiring Justin Bartlett to take the job of civic center manager. Current manager Emily Draffen has resigned because her family is moving to Memphis.

Stroud did not say much about Bartlett other than that he was recommended by Draffen and county schools theatre director Clint Reid. Bartlett has apparently worked with Reid on some of his productions.

Stroud also said city officials apparently never voted to formally set a historic district after qualifying as a Certified Local Government. The district designation is needed for preservation efforts and to obtain grants and assistance.

Aldermen decided to take no action, however, after determining that the 25-year-old map did not include the entire historic downtown area. Some thought the area should be enlarged. Stroud will be in contact with the department of archives and history to see what they recommend as the next step.

Police and fire personnel

Police Chief Chris Robertson asked for approval to hire London Jordan as new police officer.

Robertson said Jordon is not certified but the department is now two officers short and will be four short by the end of the month. He said hiring is a problem and he will need to act quickly if qualified applicants can be found. It was agreed the board could meet electronically if need be to approve someone before the next board meeting.

Fire Chief Mark Whiteside said he was in a situation similar to that of the police chief. He said he expected to have an opening later in the week but had gone through his hiring pool.

His practice has been to post potential openings to create a pool of possible qualified employees, particularly those who could be known to pass the necessary academy tests.

That process will take one to one and one-half months, he said, and is concerned that more firefighters are or will be soon eligible for retirement.

Zoning requests

Building Inspector Eric Thomas brought some items from the planning and zoning board.

One was for Holly Wilhite to be granted a conditionally permitted use of 503 Hwy. 30 West as a daycare.

A second was to grant a parking lot variance to El Agave restaurant for property at 106 Gap Drive and a third was to allow 1164 Martintown Road to be rezoned from C-2 commercial to to R-1 residential.

The Martintown property will require a public hearing at the October board meeting and Thomas also got permission to set a public hearing on condemnation of the property at 604 Booker Street next month. He said a tree had fallen on the property, the owner had died and they have been unable to find any other possible owner.

General business

In general business, aldermen briefly mentioned a project to do street repair at various locations. No streets were specified but the work was expected to cost more than $50,000, requiring that bids be taken.

An item regularly on the agenda is public shelters. While there was nothing new, it was suggested that the old city hall might serve as a shelter once the police department moves out.

In special business, Mayor Kent read a proclamation honoring late businessman Tommy Sappington as “a distinguished and valued citizen and friend.”

The proclamation cited Sappington’s business accomplishments, his many civic contributions and artistic achievements as a nationally-recognized craftsman.

He also proclaimed Wednesday, Sept. 8, as “Tommy Sappington Day” in the City of New Albany. 

Before adjourning, aldermen went into executive session to discuss a possible park director but no action was reported.

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