City Council, Sept. 26, 2016

The council found a scant $107,091 difference of opinion with the mayor's budget after a month of hearings.

After a month of hearings, the council’s Finance Committee found a scant $107,091 difference of opinion with the mayor’s $69 million budget, about the usual net difference from past years. One of the largest disparities, of $277,841 the committee removed from the mayor’s gas tax budget, represents a savings gained from having paid for part of the Valley Avenue repaving project out of the current budget. The $466,581 added to capital projects appears mainly to cover added sidewalk construction.

Across the board bonuses for all employees, based on tenure, will be drawn from this year’s projected budget surplus when all bills are paid after Oct. 1, and not to exceed $375,000. That will start at $350 for employees with 1-3 years service up to a one-time $2,000 per year bonus for those at the 20-year mark and above. As in past years, Mr. Hallman voted no, signaling his support of regular COLA’s, which become part of the employees’ regular salaries, and pensions.

Other boons that fell to the city budget were the $1.19 million low bid from Dunn Construction, awarded tonight, which came well under the mayor’s $2.3 million allowance for a city-wide repaving and street repair project that would have addressed the worst streets first (those graded in “c” condition by Volkert Engineering). The extra funds can now be used to begin addressing streets in the “B” level, grades established by Volkert’s traffic consultants last year. The entire project to address all the streets is $4 million to be spent over 8 years.

Finally tonight, the council gave a rare denial to a business asking for a sign variance, and passed a Mayfair Drive sidewalk project that had been disputed for months, and attempted failed for years past, to the disappointment of some in the audience.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Rich Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Absent: Fred Hawkins and Vance Moody.

Staff present: Mike Kendrick, city attorney, Melody Salter, finance director and city clerk, J.J. Bischoff, mayor’s chief of staff, and Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance: 24

Appointed Matt Foley to the Ward 5 BZA position vacated by Hope Cannon. A second candidate, who already serves on the BZA, was disqualified because of term limits.

CONSENT AGENDA

The following items were dropped from council consideration, for various reasons. Sometimes the reason is that the item has already been acted on or resolved. Dropped are 1) A request for a special event permit and tent variance at 200 Green Springs Highway; and 2) A request to address traffic concerns on Hambaugh Avenue.

OLD BUSINESS
Image provided by city to Homewood Star.

Image provided by city to Homewood Star.

Approved sidewalks and other improvements on Mayfair Drive between Whitehall and U.S. 31: The council passed Phase I (on the north side of Mayfair from U.S. 31 to Roxbury) and Phase II (Roxbury to Huntingdon) of street improvements planned between Whitehall Road and U.S. 31, which will use up to $70,000 from the current budget and include sidewalks. A couple in the audience said he and other long-time residents opposed the project and felt it was railroaded through by the council to please younger residents who, he said, were not likely to live on the street for more than a few years.

Purchased two Automatic License Plate Readers: Tonight’s purchase of so-called ALPRs for $34,585 was approved prior to adopting a policy to govern the use of data collected by the devices, which read license plate numbers and compare them to crime databases, matching the numbers to outstanding warrants and other offenses. ALPRs are in use now in Hoover and Jefferson County with no accompanying policies, a fact that prompted resident Ken Gunnells to pursue one for Homewood that, among other protections, would limit the retention period for any data collected. Gunnells’ main concern was the future use of data collected on individuals whose information is being searched in the absence of any reasonable suspicion. He has been in talks with council members since August about the dangers of police overreach, and has a meeting planned with the mayor. 

Awarded a $1.2 paving contract to Dunn Construction: The low bid left additional funds in the mayor’s $2.3 million allowance to repair, seal or repave more streets, and sooner than previously planned. See above. 

Carried over a vote to declare a block of Rumson Road one-way: The matter had been carried over previously to produce traffic counts from an earlier traffic study. That information still not available, Mr. Limbaugh had the plan to establish the 500 block of Rumson Road one-way going north and to build out sidewalks into the road because of  500 block of Rumson Road one-way:

Granted a fence variance on Hambaugh Avenue: The variance allows the resident at 612 to replace a split rail wood fence in her side yard with a 4-foot picket fence. 

Carried over a plan to rescind the Home Energy Section of the 2016 International Building Code: With builders apparently balking at onerous or costly insulation and ventilation requirements standards in the current International Building Code, the council moved to rescind this portion and revert to the 2015 version. That said, and with no objection during a hearing, Mr. Bischoff said the former building superintendent Jim Wyatt (now working with Hoover) said the city could not revert to a less stringent version of the building code than the one adopted by the State of Alabama. Some discussion followed on whether the state had passed the full 2016 edition, or had adopted an amended version. But without that information, the council president carried the matter over. Homewood and Mountain Brook are the only two municipalities locally to have adopted the 2016 version. 

Carried over again a request to annexed two properties on Shades Crest Road: The city attorney said answering questions about the legal descriptions of 913 and 1400 Shades Crest Road have prolonged the request. Earlier, he said the properties were bounded in part by the city of Hoover.

Denied a sign variance to a bridal shop on Linden: A motion by Mr. Hallman to approve this request, which had been held over since the last meeting, failed to get a second and the measure died. Ms. Smith explained that council members were reluctant to let a business erect such a large sign on a street dominated by small lots and houses. No picture of the sign was shown.

The city's major expenses this coming year include a $4 million in infrastructure projects, such as paving, trails and sidewalks.

The city’s major expenses this coming year include a $4 million in infrastructure projects, such as paving, trails and sidewalks.

Passed the FY2017 budgets in 17 separate votes: A summary of the separate budget funds approved tonight and a comparison with the mayor’s request are above. Pictured is a list of the major infrastructure spending planned for the coming year. The full budget will be posted online within a day and linked here.

Carried over a request for a franchise agreement with Level 3 Communications: No details.

Granted a tent ordinance exemption on Oxmoor Road:  The request is from Dawson Baptist Church at 1114 Oxmoor Road. 

Granted a sign ordinance exemption for a Green Springs Hwy. business: There was one dissent to a sign variance for the Jefferson County Satellite Building at 809 Green Springs Highway. No explanation given. 

Voting no: Mr. McClusky

Approved funds and ordinance to establish a cross walk on Manhattan Street. 

Set an Oct. 3 bid opening for a new wrecker/towing contract for the police department.

Set an Oct. 3 bid opening for a new animal control contract for the police department.

Awarded on a split vote one-time employee bonuses from a projected budget surplus: With one dissent the council approved across-the-board bonuses not to exceed $375,000 and conditioned on a surplus remaining after all bills are paid for the current budget year. Bonuses, which do not add to employees’ ongoing salaries or count toward retirement pensions, begin at $350 for employees with tenure 1-3 years and top out at $2,000 for those with 20 years tenure or more.

Voting no-Mr. Hallman voted no to indicate support for awarding the more permanent cost of living increase

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider A) A review of the sidewalk projects, past, present, and future; B) Paying for more street lights on Dixon Avenue (from Public Safety); and C) Amending the current budget.

To Planning and Development – To consider A) Establishing one-way traffic through Ardsley Road; B)

To Public Safety – To consider A) Improvements in a Peerless Avenue cross walk; and B) Supporting a new liquor license application for Michael’s restaurant.

To Public Works – To consider A) Planning for accommodations to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; B) A request to review the contract for the Valley Avenue construction engineering.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set an Oct. 10 public hearing for a sign variance at 150 Green Springs.

Approved a state permit fee, per Alabama law, to fund training of skilled construction workers: The Construction Industry Craft Training law levies a permit fee of $1 per every $1,000 in construction on non-residential permits issued by jurisdictions across the state. The fee, which is expected to raise between $3 million and $5 million annually, will pay for training to fill a shortage in skilled construction trade jobs that has occurred in the wake of a decline in trade unions. In discussion it was lamented that the city must collect and forward this additional fee to the state monthly, with no benefit to itself and in fact must pay a (very) small transfer fee to comply.

Passed an ordinance banning the use of engine brakes:  The city last year passed a prohibition against “jake braking,” and posted signs to that effect, which is apparently different than engine braking, a ban passed tonight. 

GianMarco's is bidding on the vacant lot by Patriot Park for a pizza restaurant. Public hearing before a vote is schedule for Oct. 10.

GianMarco’s is bidding on the vacant lot by Patriot Park for a pizza restaurant. Public hearing before a vote is schedule for Oct. 10.

Set an Oct. 10 hearing before voting whether to sell a lot by Patriot Park: The sale of the city-owned lot at 165 Oxmoor Road has been in play since at least 2013 and involved two city Requests for Proposals, multiple extensions, and attracted three bids, one for a retail building featuring a Cajun restaurant and other tenants, another for a food truck park, and most recently a controversial proposal by Avondale’s Hunter Lake for a Post Office Pies pizzeria in a building topped by condominiums. The property, bought by the city from a law firm for $135,000, is the site of a former gas station and contaminated by leaking underground storage tanks, which could limit its use for anything but commerce. For a look at past bidders and interested parties in this property, click here.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period Sept. 12-25, 2016 were approved to be paid.

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