Demopolis council approves $1.16 million paving project

Demopolis’ City Council moved much closer to paving some of the city’s streets Thursday night, approving a preliminary bid of $1,163,000 for 12 individual projects.

Council members had previously submitted two projects from each of their districts.

Jeremy Jones with Almon Associates answered the council’s questions regarding his company’s bid. Jones recommended prioritizing the streets as a contingency for cost adjustments. After discussion, the council unanimously approved the motion to proceed, pending prioritization of the project after further review of the 12 specific projects within the proposal.

During discussion, council member Charles Jones noted that “old tax money” due to the city will leave only $700,000 needed from reserves, and he added the city will be able to replenish those reserves from various means.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the council moved toward stiffening its ordinance regarding property owners’ failure to keep buildings and lots clean and free of debris. “The current method of sending a letter is not achieving needed results,” said Mayor Mike Grayson. “We’re going to have to put some monetary punch in this ordinance, and send them down to talk to (Municipal) Judge (Woody) Dinning.”

The proposed ordinance would establish fines for excessive litter, non-performing vehicles, debris from demolition and other unsightliness on city lots.

“Abandoned housing, overgrown lots and junk vehicles are basically what we’re talking about,” Grayson said.

The first violation, after a notice period to correct the problem, would cost the property owner $30-$200 plus court costs. The second violation would bring a minimum $100 fine.

After publication, the council will take a final vote at its next meeting.

The Mayor referenced when he termed a “mainly off-the-record” discussion about the possibility of placing a moratorium on a certain type of business within the city. After the meeting, he said payday loans were the type of business in question.

Grayson said City Attorney Bill Poole checked with the Alabama League of Municipalities, which informed him a city cannot single out one type of business for a moratorium, but can make sure all businesses are located in proper zoning.

Poole reported that he researched the possibility of the city undertaking demolition of dilapidated buildings and removal of the debris. Poole indicated that the city could assess a lien against those properties, but Alabama Code states that preexisting mortgages and other financial encumbrances would supersede the city’s claim. As a result, the city could recover its expenses on some properties, but may not be able to do so on others, he said.

Regarding a Board of Adjustment alternate position vacancy, Grayson said Sylvia Malone’s name had been mentioned, and that she has expressed interest in serving. Council member Cleveland Cole nominated Tony Pittman, and the council will choose between the two nominees at its next meeting.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jenn Tate appeared before the council, and said Christmas on the River has decided not to pursue the previously-discussed idea of accepting donations for parking.

Prior to adjournment, Grayson presented council members a draft copy of the city’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget for review prior to next meeting. The proposed budget projects revenues of $9,672,100 and expenses of $9,639,954, leaving a surplus of $32,146.

The Mayor asked for prayers for the families of two young men – one from Demopolis and one from Linden – who lost their lives in an automobile accident over the Labor Day weekend, and he also mentioned a near-disaster when a boater went over the Demopolis dam and another near-disaster involving a motorcyclist hitting a deer.

He also encouraged a good turnout when the University of West Alabama hosts Concordia College in a football contest at DHS Stadium on Sept. 26.