City Council meeting, Feb. 9, 2015

Letters from the BWWB warning of financial catastrophe from broken water pipes have been used to sell home warranties for some time. Tonight, the council gave a water works manager the floor to explain.

Letters from the BWWB warning of financial catastrophe from broken water pipes have been circulating for months to sell customers home warranties. Tonight, the council gave a water works manager the floor to explain. [Image taken from a March 4, 2014, al.com column, “Watch your Assets” by John Archibald.]

Following tonight’s business, in which managers of the Birmingham Water Works Board were on hand, Councilman Peter Wright gently chided the BWWB for its poor work patching streets after fixing leaks.  T. M. Jones, an assistant GM in charge of Engineering and Maintenance, then took the opportunity to announce the utility will soon be using a new and more expensive–but better–way of filling and patching the streets so as to avoid sunken areas. The BWWB will begin using a concrete-based filler that doesn’t compress easily and sealing it with a hardened and seamless T-Patch product that doesn’t allow water into the substrate.

Councilman Walter Jones then asked for an explanation of for the flurry of letters voters are receiving from companies selling home warranties to help cover catastrophic water pipe repairs.

Mr. Jones of BWWB responded to the question with an ad for one of the companies the utility endorses and from whose sales the utility takes a 10% commission. (He apologized for the fact that as many as five different companies nationwide are selling such warranties to water customers, often making it appear as if the letters were sent by the utility companies themselves, he said.) He said the system’s aging galvanized steel pipes were deteriorating and recommended everyone buy a warranty as protection. “We’ve got leaks everywhere,” he said.

In an interview following his presentation, Mr. Jones of BWWB re-emphasized that it is the homeowner, not the BWWB, who owns and is responsible for any leaks “from the main into the house.” The BWWB does not accept ownership of the lines under the street, he said, but in most cases “reserves the right” to repair them.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Walter Jones, Heather Reid, Rich Laws, Peter Wright and Bruce Limbaugh, council president. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, and Barry Smith.

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

Audience attendance: 17

Approved minutes of the Dec. 1, and Dec. 15 council meetings.

Appointed an at-large member to the park board: Jody Brant, a one-time Homewood soccer board president, was appointed to replace outgoing member Tom Walker, whose term expired Dec. 31. Ward 3 member Walter Jones also closed the application period for positions on three different boards in his ward. Closed on Feb. 23 at 4 p.m. will be Ward 3 vacancies on the Homewood Environmental Commission, the Historical Preservation Commission, and the Board of Zoning Adjustments.

OLD BUSINESS

Approved the expense to replace a totaled police car.

Approved a large tent for a weekend science & religion event at Trinity UMC: The council approved a variance allowing the church at 1400 Oxmoor Road to set up a large tent for a weekend youth program.

Awarded bid for police car equipment: A company named Brasher won the low bid for a Tahoe at $10,918 and a Tahoe outfitted for K-9s at $11,999.

Approved franchise renewal with Birmingham Water Works Board: The vote tonight renewed a 30-year franchise arrangement with the water company, allowing it to work in city limits to maintain the water system, excavate city streets, fix leaks, etc.

Long vacant, these two former phone company buildings are on property slated for redevelopment as a storage facility.

Long vacant, these two former phone company buildings are on property slated for redevelopment as a storage facility. Click on image to enlarge.

Set Feb. 23 hearing for Bagby Drive rezoning & redevelopment case: Burr and Foreman law firm, owners of two derelict buildings in West Homewood at 65 and 55 Bagby Drive, are seeking a more relaxed commercial zoning for the property in order to build a mini-storage facility. The hearing is to take public comment on the proposal before the council votes whether to rezone.  The redevelopment also includes a building at 301 Goodwin Crest Drive.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – 1) To review the FY 2014 audit by Carr, Riggs & Ingram before council/public presentation; 2) To consider amendments to FY2015 General and Special Revenue Fund budgets; 3) To consider declaring as surplus in order to sell, Fire Department breathing apparatuses; 4) To consider giving partial instead of full pension distributions to retirees; and 5) A fifth item was added, but not clarified.

A committee is considering a no parking sign at this alley on East Edgewood Blvd.

A committee is considering a no parking sign at this alley on East Edgewood Blvd.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) Placing a “no parking” sign at the intersection of the alley adjacent to 101 East Edgewood Drive and East Edgewood Drive; 2) A turn lane addition to Valley Avenue; and 3) Consider changing the name of First Avenue West to Montessori Way.

To Special Issues – To consider, before a Feb. 23 hearing, a variance to the fence ordinance at the Islamic Academy at 1810 25th Court South.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

The city took delivery of 14 new Chevrolet Tahoes for the police department.

The city took delivery of 14 new Chevrolet Tahoes for the police department.

Approved moving a $1.4 million debt from Bryant Bank to Regions: In two separate moves, the council voted to void its resolution to borrow $1,450,000 from Bryant Bank for police vehicles, and to approve the warrant issue debt through Regions Bank instead. The move is due to a better interest rate offered by Regions. The debt is authorized to purchase a fleet of 14 Chevrolet Tahoes, already delivered, a bucket truck and garbage vehicles. 

Set a Feb. 23 public hearing for a fence ordinance variance for the Islamic Academy:  See above.

Approved use of City Hall’s rear parking lot for the Farmers’ Market: The lot will be used Saturdays, May 30-Aug. 15, except for July 4.

Approved an agreement with the county to allow construction on the Greenway Trail extension: The council’s vote allows the mayor to enter a hold-harmless agreement with Jefferson County in order to build part of the Phase II trail route across a county sewer easement. The agreement protects the county from expense of any construction damage to the sewer lines.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the Jan. 26-Feb. 6, 2015 period were approved.

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