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December 20, 2014

Talladega City Council approves ordinance amendments

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Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014 8:43 pm

TALLADEGA -- The City Council voted to approve amendments to two ordinances Monday night, one unanimously and one by a vote of 0-4, with councilman Donnie Miller abstaining.

The amendment which passed unanimously was to the unsafe building ordinance. According to City Manager Brian Muenger, the existing ordinance did not adequately address issues that might create a danger to the public, such as shattered glass in a storefront window, that would not merit demolition of the whole building. According to a memo presented to the council, in a case of ‘immediate and present danger of risk of injury to the public,’ the appropriate municipal official would be allowed to order the abatement of an unsafe condition within five days, after which the city would be allowed to act if left untreated.”

The other amendment was to the ordinance dealing with the disposal of fats, oils and grease.

The main thrust of the amendment was to create a 50 percent discount for restaurants with five or fewer grease traps (pretty much all of them) who “provide proof of a current contract with a certified grease hauler and providing a maintenance log and cleaning manifest.” The discount, which would be paid to city inspectors, would reduce the annual fee down to $100.

Miller, who owns a restaurant, said he saw no reason for the fee to be paid at all, since he was paying a licensed professional to empty and inspect his traps anyway, and all the municipal inspectors ever did was sign off on the log provided by the professional company.

Muenger said it was the city’s responsibility to keep the grease out of the sewer system and to make sure businesses were compliant with the city’s ordinances. Specific penalties of up to $1,000 are provided elsewhere in the ordinance.

Councilman Horace Patterson pointed out that the city had had serious sewer problems relative to oil and grease in the past, and he did not want to be embarrassed by similar problems in the future.

Miller grudgingly voted in favor of immediate consideration of the amended ordinance, and abstained from the vote on adoption.

The grease disposal issue was not the only controversy touched on Monday night. Mayor Larry Barton provided copies of a letter from his attorneys in his suit for declaratory judgment on what authority as mayor he has left after a constitutional amendment passed almost a decade ago. Barton provided Muenger and the council with copies of Alabama Constitutional Amendment 555, which says that local amendments must be passed by three-fifths majorities in the House and Senate and approved by a special committee of statewide office holders before it can be presented to the voters. According to Barton and his lawyer, there was no record of Talladega’s city manager amendment having passed the committee.

Because of this, he said, the city manager amendment and form of government in Talladega had never been ratified and were not legally in effect.

“I wanted to let you know before you had to go hire attorneys and pay them thousands of dollars,” Barton said. The city’s attorney had already been notified.

Patterson thanked the mayor, but said he did not “take advice from my opponent’s attorneys.”

Councilman Joe Ballow added that he would like to say what he thought of Barton’s suit, but “it would not be prudent to voice my opinion.”

Also Monday night, the council:

O Heard a presentation from Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens, who is asking for an appropriation for the county Drug and Violent Crime Task Force in next year’s budget.

O Approved a contract for $59,250 with InSite engineering for a contract to sandblast the water tank and pipes and add a new extension and booster pump that will help remedy some quality issues in the area. Other issues, mostly stemming from old pipes, will remain, however.

O Heard a concern from a resident about upkeep of vacant property near her home.

O Announced that bids would be going out for solid waste disposal and paving in the next month.

O Announced that employees Karen Phillips and Robert Buyer had been certified as floodplain managers.

O Announced fall sports registration would be open through Aug. 2.

O Announced that the city would once again be participating in the state back-to-school sales tax holiday in August.

O Agreed to trim the tree canopy before agreeing to place new lights on Grove Street.

O Approved a beer and wine license for AOC Food Mart on Cherry Street 4-0, with Councilman Ricky Simpson abstaining.

O Approved a beer and wine license for A and D Mart on Fort Lashley Avenue.

O Approved prepaving contracts to replace 215 water services on Howard, Long and North Street for $510,500 with Giddens Inc. and Crestview water line replacement with Singleton Excavating for $113,820.

O Heard Muenger announce that a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for $95,000 to renovate the Kenwin Building had been awarded. The city will have a 40 to 50 percent match on the project.

O Heard Patterson congratulate the city board of education on selecting Dr. Donna King as superintendent, but continuing to raise questions about whether or not all the students in the pre-K program, which the city helps fund, are city residents. Muenger said he would follow up with the new school administration.

O Heard Patterson praise Muenger, the city manager form of government and the city’s progress in recent years generally. He said he was particularly proud that the council had never had to borrow money to make payroll since the new form of government had gone into effect.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com.

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