The mayor ended a 1 1/2 hour meeting with an overview of his $63.8 million budget–$40 million in the General Fund–which includes merit raises but no cost of living increases for employees, and absorbs a 5% anticipated increase in health insurance premiums. Mayor Scott McBrayer emphasized the budget as employee-friendly, asking the council to keep in mind COLAs in January or at mid-year if finances allow. Among the top capital projects included are funds for engineering design of the Greenway Extension, Phase II; $400,000 to start the West Homewood “Village” Redevelopment plan; and
$147,000 $70,000 toward the city’s portion of the Hollywood Boulevard pedestrian bridge. A PowerPoint budget summary will be available online Aug. 27. [See link above.]
The budget is being presented under the new fiscal policy timeline, giving the council one month before the Oct. 1 budget year to digest the hefty documents, which were distributed in three-ring binders.
Of all the routine business conducted the most surprising was the council’s vote to cancel negotiations with Brown-Mackie College for an overflow parking lease
on city property at Bagby Drive. The decision comes after months of discussions over the demolition of an unsafe office building on the site and an unresolved dispute over assignment of risk and liability between Homewood or the college.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Walter Jones.
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Building, Engineering and Zoning staff Scott Cook, Vanessa McGrath, and Greg Cobb.
Audience attendance: 23
Approved a resolution commending the HHS Band for its invitation to the Tournament of Roses Parade: Band director Ron Pence and two other school staff accepted the resolution, which thanked the tournament president.
Approved: The council approve minutes of the July 8, 2013 meeting.
Appointed members to two city board vacancies: Mike Higginbotham was reappointed to the Ward 2 spot on the Homewood Library Board and Bob Tedrow was appointed to the Ward 5 seat on the Arts Advisory Council.
Approved closing a Brookwood Village drive for a concert series: The series entitled, “Brookwood Village Live” kicks off this upcoming Thursday evening. Concerts and closure of Brookwood Village Lane will be 1-10 p.m. on Sept. 5, 12, 19, and 26.
Approved zoning ordinance amendments enacting the new West Homewood District regulations: The new “form-based codes” were approved to become the zoning regulations for the district around Patriot Park, Raleigh Avenue and Oak Grove Road, and Oxmoor Road. The district’s inclusion in the city’s Master Plan had been previously approved by the Planning Commission.
Approved a front yard fence variance on an 8-2 split vote: After some discussion, the council approved–with some changes–a request for a privacy fence to replace a chain link fence on a side yard at 116 East Glenwood Drive. Mr. Cobb said a privacy fence could potentially block street visibility where it meets the street. On a motion from Ms. Wallis, the council approved a six-foot fence if set back an additional 18 inches.
Voting no: Mr. Hallman and Mr. Moody voted no, offering similar explanations a week later: The homeowner had requested the privacy fence to substitute as a buffer after he cleared shrubs from his own property, and therefore fell short of the “hardship” requirement for getting a variance. Mr. Moody further explained that the council’s leniency was a mistake that could cause it trouble in denying future fence variances, a situation that has already happened in the case of sign variance requests.
Declared public nuisances for overgrowth: The council followed Mr. Cook’s recommendations in declaring nuisances at 1612 25th Court South and a vacant lot at 1623 25th Terrace South.
Allowed more time for clean up on the following nuisance cases: On Mr. Cook’s recommendations the council continued until Sept. 16 proceedings against 1613 25th Court South and 2516 17th Street South. In both cases progress was being made or promised if an extension was granted.
Dropped Brown-Mackie College parking lease proposal: The college had proposed leasing city-owned property at 90 Bagby Drive for overflow parking, but balked at accepting the city’s release of liability. While the parties haggled over the language, the city scheduled the demolition of a derelict office building on the property, then called it off when a resident complained. As of tonight, the city is going ahead with the demolition but canceling the protracted negotiations over the parking lease.
Postponed again the sale of a city-owned lot: With a reference to having “new information,” the council agreed to carry over once again the proposed sale of the “Loo property,” a lot the city condemned 13 years ago to complete the Publix development plan, but which was never built. The property, purchased in those proceedings for $320,000, was offered for $100,000 and $150,000 in committee motions by Vance Moody, but not seconded. The proposal has been before the council for several meetings.
Approved support for a state retail liquor license application for La Catrina Mexican Cantina Homewood at 230 State Farm Parkway.
Approved support of a native tree propagation and planting program: On the recommendation of the Homewood Environmental Commission, the council agreed in spirit to consider adding in the upcoming budget a program to increase the number of native trees throughout the city. An estimated cost is $30,500 for design, planting and initial maintenance of 50 trees.
Referred a mosquito control program to the Homewood Environmental Commission: After listening to proposals from several vendors, the council agreed to let the Homewood Environmental Commission review and make recommendations on the plans.
Passed a resolution 8-1-1 in support of the Hollywood Blvd. foot bridge: Much discussion followed Mr. Wright’s favorable report and resolution from the Planning and Development committee regarding the Homewood/Mountain Brook pedestrian bridge. [Ms. Wallis had voted no in committee.] The resolution, based on a similar document written a year ago, endorses Gresham Smith Partners as the engineering firm, sets out the joint nature of the project, and specifies that the project would seek a Transportation Enhancement grant, which is 80% federal funds through ALDOT with a 20% local match. (The 20% would be split evenly between Homewood and Mountain Brook.) The vote commenced with a motion from Britt Thames to accept Gresham Smith Partners.
However, Mr. Moody objected that the committee’s vote was only to endorse the engineering firm while the final resolution contained many details not debated in committee, and didn’t include a cap on cost. Mr. McClusky was concerned about cost as well. Mr. Kendrick said the resolution only supported the concept of the joint project to set the wheels in motion, and decisions about cost and professional services could be made later. Upon his explanation, the council proceeded to pass the resolution.
Voting no – Jenifer Champ Wallis, who also voted no to the measure in committee, said after the meeting that she disagreed with the process of endorsing Gresham Smith Partners as the engineering firm, although she didn’t object to the firm itself. According to her, several firms had made presentations at a committee meeting, but Gresham Smith then appeared at the following council meeting, saying they were told they had been selected for the project. She did not know who had told the firm this. Ms. Wallis said the final decision belonged to the mayor anyway, and the endorsement of Gresham Smith, especially coming on the heels of that incident, felt more like a rubber stamp than the result of deliberation.
Abstaining – Michael Hallman abstained as a former employee of ALDOT with connections to some engineering firms mentioned in the resolution.
Committee Referral Agenda
With some new items added, the council passed the following committee referrals: To Finance – Consideration of general fund budget changes for tuition reimbursement; Consideration of mayor’s request for an amendment for military supplemental pay. To Public Works – Consideration for permission to work in the city’s right of way at 1600 Oxmoor Road. To Public Safety – Consider a signaled cross walk on 18th Street.
Approved change in September meeting times: Due to Labor Day holiday, the council will meet Sept. 16 and Sept. 30.
Set a sign variance public hearing: A public hearing was set for Sept. 16 for a sign variance at 816 Green Springs Highway–the old Mazer building. The Sticks N Stuff tenant is currently in violation for a Furniture Liquidators sign at that address. The business was cited, but the council allowed the sign to stay an additional three months, through July 1, when it fell into violation again.
Declared certain fire department vehicles surplus property to be auctioned. No details.
Approved payment of invoices for Aug. 12-23, 2013. No details.
Budget presentation: The mayor at this time presented a PowerPoint summary of his budget. The presentation will be posted to the city’s website on Aug. 27, with summaries available to the public at the first public hearing by the Finance Committee, currently set for Monday, Sept.
2 Sept. 9.
With a month left before the Oct. 1 start of the next fiscal year, the mayor predicted ending the fiscal year with a $500,000 surplus.
The meeting adjourned at approximately 8 p.m.