City officials are working to clear up a backlog of cases that have been appealed to circuit court.

A person found guilty in municipal court may contest the ruling and, in some cases, appealing a case is a stalling tactic to essentially keep a case buried from public view.

Joe Marshall Davis, who serves as city prosecutor, spoke to the board concerning city cases being appealed to circuit court.

Davis said they had set four appeals dates in the past couple of years, bringing the total remaining to about 40.

Davis said he wants to get caught up on the appeals “for justice and for the amount of money the city will get.” He added that an appeal could bring in $5,000 to $10,000.

Davis told the board he has not charged for appeal days so far while learning how to clean up the system. What he proposed Tuesday was having two appeals dates – one in the spring and one in the fall – per year. He presented some alternatives, including $2,500 per appeals date to his salary, adding $4,000 for the year or having office expenses paid.

“We’ve got to have somebody handle this,” Mayor Tim Kent said. “Appealing is the oldest trick in the book. The charge just sits there.”

Kent recommended the $4,000per year charge in addition to Davis’ salary, which is about $20,000 per year.

Davis said he did not need a decision that night and aldermen did not discuss it further.

In a related matter later in the meeting, aldermen accepted the resignation for retirement of municipal judge Steve Livingston. Livingston is only the city’s second judge since the municipal court system was started. Talmadge Littlejohn was the first.

Mayor Kent said the city will begin looking for a replacement but that attorney Regan Russell had already been serving as backup judge when Livingston could not sit on the bench.

In public appearances, Bob Barber of Orion Planning + Design spoke briefly to the board about the planning project his firm has been contracted for. “I just wanted to stop by and say hello since this is the first time I have met with you in an official setting,” he said.

The planning project is being called “New Albany Next” and Barber said he had met with the appointed steering committee and is ready to proceed with the scope of service.

He told aldermen that the planning project has four major parts: discovery of the city’s history and assets, the direction citizens want the city to take, drafting the completed plan and then implementing it. A major part of the project will be updating city codes and making them easier for the average citizen to understand and use.

He said the process will take nine to 12 months.

In departmental business, light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox got approval for pay requests relating to the Marshall County gas expansion project. Eubanks Construction will get $372,457, Cook Coggin Engineers will get $34,070.40 and $115.461.82 more will be requested for the construction.

“All this is in the budget and has been approved,” Mattox said. The project is being funded by grants.

Mattox also received permission to hire Kevin Cooper as a dispatcher, replacing an employee who is retiring.

Next, Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud received permission to move forward in efforts to have New Albany become a Certified Local Government. Most of the requirements have been met in the past but the city has never taken the last step for certification.

Stroud said there is money available that could help with projects such as saving the old New Albany Grocery Company warehouse (if it were not already too late). A historic preservation commission would establish one or more historic preservation districts to help preserve the character of structures in the area. 

A misconception about the plan, Mayor Kent said, is that the commission would not interfere with property owners to the extent of telling them what color they must paint doors, for instance. The commission would support preservation and offer alternatives to help.

Initially, the historic preservation district would include the historically downtown area and part of Carter Avenue nearly to I-22.

Stroud said most area cities are already Certified Local Government certified and have been so for years.

Union County Development Association Executive Director Phil Nanney gave a record on activities his office has been involved in including Project REACH with CREATE, the Kevin Charles Fine Furniture expansion, planning a 20-year celebration for the Magnolia Civic Center, sponsoring the state treasurer’s office unclaimed funds visit and planning for an overpass to connect Munsford Drive with Sam T. Barkley Drive.

In a matter related to community improvement, Alderman-at-Large Keith Conlee spoke on behalf of the sustainability group and got approval to spend $40,924 to make exterior repairs to the old post office.

Also, the plan to plant some crape myrtles along East Bankhead Street by the cemetery will now proceed. Cost will be about $10,000 and the number of plants will be reduced from the original plan. The plants also will be placed slightly farther back from the street than originally planned.

Police Chief Chris Robertson got permission to purchase a F-150 truck at state contract price to replace an old 2005 Tahoe. The vehicle will be used for narcotics enforcement and paid for through the seized assets fund rather than tax money.

Fire Chief Steve Coker got permission to purchase new breathing apparatus and rescue equipment. The self-contained breathing apparatus will cost $28,728 and the rescue equipment, $28786, paid for out of fire protection funds.

A public hearing was held on a request by Jose Aguirre to rezone the lot at 1104 West Bankhead St. from C-2 commercial to R-2 residential. Aldermen were told that Aguirre plans to build a house on the lot and the planning and zoning board approved the request. Based on that, aldermen agreed to the change.

In his report, building inspector and zoning administrator Eric Thomas said that Bill Smallwood had asked for rezoning the structure at 116 Highland, or approving a new use. He wants to convert the right-hand section of the former funeral home into an apartment with the left-hand side being an office.

Thomas said the zoning board had referred the matter to the board of aldermen but added nothing further. A public hearing on the matter will be held at the May 7 board meeting.

A public hearing also was approved for the May 7 meeting to consider condemnation of a mobile home at 127 Short Summer.

Ward One Alderman Amy Livingston reminded everyone that it was Autism Awareness Day and during April the front of the courthouse and Tanglefoot Trail arch will be adorned with blue lights in honor of autism awareness.

Also, aldermen voted, without discussion, to reopen Shady Dell Park. It was mentioned that the park will need some repair or maintenance work and that police will patrol regularly to help prevent damage or problems due to the park’s comparatively isolated location.

Before adjourning, the board met in executive session, reportedly to consider the municipal judge’s resignation.

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