Homewood City Council, Feb. 25, 2013

Homewood City CouncilThis approximately one-hour meeting was called to order at 6:28 pm. and was highlighted by a discussion of a draft of the city’s financial audit and discussions of the 2013 Raymond James Gulf South Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship Tournaments to be held at Samford University.  Councilman Peter Wright noted that Homewood High School has eight National Merit Scholarship finalists and was ranked third in the state by U.S. News and World Report magazine. There was also a great deal of excitement and discussion about the Exceptional Foundation’s Chili Cook-off.

Members present:  Mike Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Council president Bruce Limbaugh, Jenifer Champ-Wallis, Heather Reid, Rich Laws, Peter Wright. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Vance Moody

Staff present: Mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, city clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick

Audience attendance:  18 to start

All votes are unanimous unless noted otherwise.

Approved:  A resolution commending Homewood High School student Maggie Williams for being selected into the U.S. Army’s honor band.

Presented draft audit for discussion:  The city’s draft audit, presented by CPA Jason Harp of Carr, Riggs and Ingram, noted a general fund balance of $26 million–an increase of about $2 million over last year and reflecting a surplus in that amount–and approximately $10 million in an “economic stabilization fund.”  However, the city has a $31 million unfunded retirement liability and  approximately $7 million in other unfunded “post-employment benefits” because a planned trust has not been set up yet.  Mr. Harp said the situation may ease as the Retirement System of Alabama recovers from the recession.  The city has money to operate 157 days, well above the 90-day national average benchmark.

Approved:  Minutes of the Feb. 11, 2013 meeting.

Approved:  Additions to the agenda, including funding for ClasTran (public transit for elderly and disabled residents) and two matters related to sidewalk design, were referred to the Finance Committee.

Approved:  Hope Cannon of Ward 5 re-appointed to the Board of Zoning Adjustments.

Approved:  All items on the consent agenda. 

Postponed:  The sign variance request for the planned DSW, Fresh Market and unnamed tenant(s) at Brookwood Village was carried over to the next council meeting.

Postponed:  At the request of city engineering staff, a substantial sign variance request by Big#1 Motorsports at 501 Cobb Street was carried over to the next meeting (March 4).  In question is the request by manager Jeff Owen for five attached signs to the building (totaling 138.5 square feet) and to erect a pole sign used at its current location on West Valley Avenue, which would require a 165-square foot variance from city regulations. The council’s consensus was that the attached signs were unobjectionable, but the city’s general policy is to discourage pole signs in favor of monument signs. (A monument sign is anchored to the ground instead of being held aloft by a pole.) The matter was carried over to allow the owners of Big #1 to discuss possible alternatives to the pole sign.

Approved: A resolution approving a bid of approximately $39,000 to connect the Police Training Center for the street department’s generator.

Approved:  2012-13 budget amendments requested by the mayor and city treasurer; details not disclosed.

Approved:  A resolution granting a $2,900 tuition reimbursement for firefighter Brandon Broadhead.

Approved:  A resolution to sign a contract for services, amount to be determined, to the Gulf State Basketball Conference in March, at Samford. Nate Salant, conference commissioner, said the teams’ lodging had accounted for $55,000 in Homewood hotel contracts plus catering contracts and positive exposure for the city.  Discussion followed about possible Chamber of Commerce promotions. According to council discussion after the meeting, the city is paying about $4,000 for advertising and promotion.

Approved:  A request authorizing the city attorney to obtain a “no further action” or clearance letter from the state environmental department for a parcel the city purchased next to Patriot Park. The property had an underground gasoline tank that apparently leaked in the past and was cleaned up.

Postponed:  The council voted to re-schedule to March 4 a public hearing for the proposed rezoning of 260 Goodwin Crest Drive for an assisted living facility.  The owners are asking to rezone the property and vacant hotel from Commercial-office to Mixed Use District.

Approved:  These requests were referred to the following committees: To Special Issues–sign variance for Octane Coffee Bar, 2821 Central Ave.; To Public Safety-a question about intersection safety at Wellington Road and Ridge Road; To Finance-annual contract with River Tree Systems for auditing city tax collections; and a request for end-of-year account transfers.

Approved:  Payment of invoices.

The next meeting has been rescheduled to March 4 because many council members will be attending the National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C. (March 9-13) 

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