PIEDMONT — City leaders voted Tuesday to spend $80,299 to install waste equipment to improve wastewater treatment operations and avoid state fines.
Apel Machine and Supply Company was awarded the contract to install seven aerators in the city’s wastewater lagoon to improve treatment operations. The contract comes after warnings from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management that the city faced fines if faulty aerators at the lagoon weren’t replaced soon.
The Piedmont City Council approved the installation of the aerators during its regular Tuesday meeting. Aerators are machines that move air through wastewater lagoons to help with the treatment process.
The city will pay for the installation with money from the general fund. Installation is set to be finished by May 4.
“We already have the new aerators,” Casey Ponder, city electric supervisor, said during the meeting. “This would get them up and running.”
ADEM first notified Piedmont in March 2015 that the city was violating state regulations for having some faulty lagoon aerators. The city first told ADEM that it planned to install the devices by Feb. 29, 2016. However, the city missed that goal because there was a delay in shipment of new aerators.
Also during the meeting, the council reviewed a workplace study Jacksonville State University recently conducted for the city. The $15,000 study, approved last year, reviewed city employee pay ranges, job descriptions and total number of employees, and compared those to ones in cities of similar size. The study provides recommendations on what changes might be needed in those categories.
Jennifer Green, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at JSU, said during the meeting that the biggest discovery from the study was that most of the city department supervisors were paid by the hour.
“If you made them all salary exempt, you’d save about $37,000 a year,” Green said. “If you’re salary exempt, that means you can’t have overtime or comp time.”
During the meeting the council also agreed, upon city attorney approval, to sponsor a state grant application for a potential all-terrain and off-highway vehicle business in Cherokee County. The city would receive 5 percent of the $500,000 grant if it is approved.
LaBreeska Ponder, who brought the proposal to the council Tuesday, said the city didn’t need to do anything. It just had to sponsor the application so her business could be eligible for the grant. Ponder said she plans to open a 4,400 acre ATV and OHV riding park about 6 miles from Piedmont. The grant would be used to improve about 100 miles of trails at the site, which was previously used as timberland and as a hunting club, she said.
“With us just about 5 or 6 miles up the road, you can expect more people coming to Piedmont to buy gas and needing hotels,” she said. “We expect a minimum of 150 riders a day.”
She said she hopes to open the riding park in May.
The council also agreed to hold a work session Tuesday to discuss possible incentive packages to attract business to the city. The choice to hold a work session was prompted by Councilman Greg South, who at the meeting proposed that the city offer sales tax incentives to attract new businesses downtown. South, who with his wife owns Solid Rock Cafe downtown, said the incentive package would only be for new businesses that move into the historic downtown buildings.
Many of the buildings downtown are empty and decaying because of lack of shoppers visiting the area.
“This would help supplement the risk of going down there and opening a business,” South said of the tax incentives.