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December 26, 2014

Piedmont City Council Piedmont backs away from economic study plan, citing cost

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Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 12:55 am | Updated: 1:00 am, Wed Aug 6, 2014.

PIEDMONT — The City Council concluded Tuesday that it doesn’t have the money to pay for an economic study, then launched a discussion that some members said underscores why they need one.

The conclusion represents a reversal from three weeks ago, when the council voted to hire Jacksonville State University to conduct a analysis of the city’s economic well-being. Tuesday, the vote was 4-3 to not move ahead with the study.

“At that time, I thought it was a good idea,” said Councilman Terry Kiser, who called for the vote, referring to the study. “I think we may need it in the future. Right now the funds are just not there.”

Immediately following the vote, Councilman Frank Cobb, who cast one of the three dissenting votes, questioned the mayor’s decision to hire a full-time mechanic and said the city needed  analysis to know if it would help the city save money. Cobb, Councilman Mark Harper and Councilwoman Brenda Spears stood by the council’s earlier decision to pay for the study, which would have cost the city roughly $14,000.

Those who favor the study have said it would provide the city with a factual understanding of Piedmont’s economic strengths and weaknesses. That data, in turn, could be used by the council to make sound decisions about how it can better manage the city.

Kiser, Councilwoman Mary Bramblett, and councilmen Ben Keller and Kenny Kelley voted to reverse the decision. Kiser said that since casting the vote, the city has learned that its insurance costs will go up and that, as is common in Piedmont, finances will be “tight” during the last months of the year.

The vote marks the second time the city has flip-flopped on the idea. Earlier this year the city voted to hire JSU to conduct an economic analysis, ultimately reversing the decision just a few weeks later.

Piedmont Mayor Bill Baker, who does not vote as a member of the council, said can see why some council members think the study could be useful and why others think paying for it might be wasteful.

“I think we know what we need to do,” Baker said. “I see pros and cons with both.”

In other business the council:

  • Voted to use fire tax money to pay for roughly $44,000 in firefighting equipment. Piedmont Fire Chief Mike Ledbetter discussed with the council the possibility of borrowing money to pay for the expense, but the council decided against going into more debt.
  • Voted to seek bids to strengthen a bridge in Piedmont on the Old Piedmont-Gadsden Highway. The council’s decision came at the request of representatives of Pemco and Industrial Resin Recycling, who said the bridge must be stronger for their respective companies to drive large trucks over it.
  • Voted to extend Ray Alley, a road that will be used to access a water tank and provide maintenance to it.
  • Voted to go into executive session after the end of the meeting to discuss property.
  • Voted to abate homes at 105 Eubanks Avenue and 116 Seaboard Avenue.
  • Received a 2013 audit report from Joan Sanders & Associates, the firm hired to complete the annual review. Sanders said the firm found no noteworthy flaws in the city’s financial records this year.

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