From a time standpoint, tonight’s short meeting was the perfect time for Ward 4 council member Jenifer Champ Wallis to announce her resignation to take a job with a Los Angeles law firm, which she did at what seemed the close of business around 6:30. The council promptly announced the vacancy, then listened as the mayor and president read a resolution that must have been pulled together only hours earlier and which praised her for her “sensible and constructive contributions.” Wallis said later that the only people with advance word of her resignation were her ward mate and friend Heather Reid and the council president, who provided a job reference. The mayor got the heads up only today, she said.
Wallis graduated in 2005 from Cumberland School of Law and was in a downtown Birmingham practice of business law, including intellectual property rights. Her nearly two years on the council brought some polish to work that is sometimes–most of the time–tedious and unappreciated. And she and Ms. Reid appeared to work more as a team than any other two ward mates presently on the council. Council members themselves took turns expressing those very sentiments, with Fred Hawkins apologizing for having “pre-judged” Ms. Wallis and others using words like “persistence,” “boldness” and “bravery” before they got back to council business and slipped into a 10 minute closed-door session (without Ms. Wallis) to discuss “impending litigation.”
Judging by the audience presence of the America’s Best Inn & Suites owners and their lawyer, the executive session related to the legal aftermath of the city denying the business a license earlier in the year.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and Bruce Limbaugh, council president. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Patrick McClusky and Walter Jones.
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, and mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff,
Audience attendance: 17
Filled seats on the Downtown Redevelopment Authority: The council reappointed Alex Edgeworth to the panel and appointed new members Mel McElroy, Steven Jones and Katy Lincoln.
Approve minutes: The April 14, 2014, regular meeting minutes and minutes of the rescheduled April meeting on May 5 were approved.
Dropped an earlier proposal for West Homewood Village work: At a committee’s insistence, Walter Schoel Engineering agreed to
drop revise a costly proposal that included preliminary engineering studies for the entire 24-parcel West Homewood (Village) Redevelopment and replace it with an estimate for an isolated street-scaping and parking project on Raleigh Avenue and Oak Grove Road around Patriot Park. However, Ward 2 councilman Fred Hawkins said the council agreed to drop consideration of Walter Schoel and seek other proposals after the company’s revised estimate came in even higher than the first estimate. No figures were made public
Approved beer and wine sales for a new grocery: The measure passed showed no objection to Mi Pueblo Mexican grocery to apply for an off-premises license for wine and beer sales.
Approved a contract for credit card payments in city court: The mayor was authorized to enter a contract with GOVT PORTAL, with fees paid by offenders, not the city, allowing basic court and traffic fines to be paid by credit card, over the phone or in person.
Committee Referral Agenda
In one vote the council moved various new issues to committees, as follows:
To Finance– 1) Amend the current year’s budget; 2) Consider a lump sum retirement pay-out to retirees and beneficiaries of the Retirement Systems of Alabama; 3) Consider a contract for ClasTran services; 4) Consider hiring Walter Schoel Engineering services for storm sewer culvert repair at 1717 27th Court South; and 5) Consider inviting proposals for city property, liability, auto liability, etc. insurance coverage.
To Special Issues – consider a sign variance at 1830 29th Avenue South before July 28 public hearing.
To Public Safety – Consider beer/wine on-or-off premises sale from Seeds coffee shop at 174 Oxmoor Road (a business of The Common Thread Community nonprofit); Consider ways to curb speeding on Valley Avenue near Vulcan; and consider parking alternatives to ease congestion on city streets.
Set a July 28, 2014, public hearing for a sign ordinance: A variance has been requested at 1830 29th Avenue South. (for PT’s Sports Bar & Grill.)
Approved two Brookwood Village events: The mall was approved to close Village Lane on July 31, from noon-9 p.m. for a radio-station sponsored music event, with two bands scheduled from 6-8 p.m.; and to close the street again Monday, Aug. 4 from 6-9 p.m. to accommodate a Paul Finebaum book signing at Books-a-Million.
Approved a liquor license for PT’s, at the SoHo Lovoy’s location: The vacant Lovoy’s, once looking like it would become the new Dupont Public House, will now be a resurrected PT’s Grill and Pub, owned by Charles Matsos, of Michael’s fame, which now leases space in the Aloft hotel. The original PT’s was just across U.S. 280 from the end of Homewood’s Hollywood Boulevard.
Set several July 28 public nuisance hearings: For high weeds and litter at 1106 Irving Road; 1425 Ardsley Place, 2827 16th Place South, and 3406 Avalon Road.
Paid the bills: Bills were paid without comment for the June 23-July 11, 2014, period.
Passed a resolution commending resigning council member Jenifer Champ Wallis:
Voted to go into executive session: For the fifth time this year, the council voted to go into a closed-door, private session. The reason given is to discuss “impending litigation,” which is one of several exceptions allowed by law to the state’s requirement to keep meetings open to the public. The council returned approximately 10 minutes later, to adjourn until July 28.