SYLACAUGA, Ala. – A day after a contentious town hall meeting with the Sylacauga Little League, the Sylacauga City Council was back to regular business Thursday for a work session and council meeting. The meeting was pushed back to Thursday due to the New Year’s holiday.
Sylacauga Police Chief Kelly Johnson shared his desire with the council to increase the rate of pay for four new employees which would allow new hires to be better compensated for certifications and degrees. Interim Fire Chief Fire Adam Gardner echoed Chief Johnson by addressing fire department pay grade and approval for job descriptions for three full-time and six part-time positions.
“We need to pay people for being educated,” said Gardner, advocating for his firefighters and new hires. A revision to policy is expected by the Jan. 16 council meeting. The permanent appointment of the fire chief position was put on hold Thursday night as discussions about pay still hung in the balance, a direct result of the previous pay grade discussion. It has been nearly one year since Gardner was appointed interim fire chief. After interviewing candidates late last year, Gardner passed the new fire chief test offered by the Civil Service Board.
The work session was opened by Billy Porter of Advanced Disposal who addressed the council with hopes to gain the City’s garbage and recycling contract. “We hope to give good service at good price,” said Porter. The City currently has a contract with WastePro through March 31. The council has not yet decided if the contract will go out for bid. Porter said his company currently serves Calhoun, Etawah, and Coosa Counties and municipalities like Pell City and Alexander City.
Other items discussed in the work session included: Lake Howard/Parks and Recreation finances, upcoming public hearing related to Second Street, and road paving.
In October, the Council authorized the first step of a $4 million dollar paving project. Michael Rice of Engineering, Environmental, & Forestry Services Company (EEFS) said the company has identified the heavily-traveled areas and roadways. Construction is expected to begin on or around May 1.
The meeting, which was set to begin at 5:00 p.m. started around 5:45 p.m. However, upon beginning the meeting, the council quickly recessed to make way for the Planing Commission public hearing scheduled for 6:00 p.m.
The Planning Commission voted to re-zone the former Budwieser property along with an adjacent 20 acres from M1 to M2 for future development. Also, the Commission approved new subdivision regulations replacing ones that had been in place since 1972.
The council resumed the meeting at 6:10 p.m. opening with Mayor Jim Heigl’s statements on progress the city made in 2017 mentioning the Hutton Development on Hwy. 280, TAP Grants for downtown redevelopment, fixing railroad crossing infrastructure, and upcoming paving projects.
Council President Lee Perryman read excerpts from the work session on Dec. 19 relative to an executive session which was entered into during work session then proceeded with the rest of the agenda.
After Wednesday night’s Sylacauga City Council/Sylacauga Little League Town Hall Meeting, a handful of Little League supporters were in attendance Thursday night. At the end of the meeting, Sylacauga Little League President Rocky Sims and Little League supporter Jodie Johnson addressed the council. Sims anticipated being included on the council agenda Thursday night in some capacity. No mention of Little League was included on the agenda.
“People are disappointed. They didn’t like what was said when it got put out there that Little League would never get another charter to play on that field. We were expecting them to vote on it,” said Sims. “Makes feel like there’s no hope for us getting a field.” Sims said he needs a quick timeline from the council.
“I’m waiting on their vote again…and then it’s up to the donors and the land owners,” said Sims. He anticipates action to take place during the Jan. 16 meeting.
“The goal was to simply set the calendar, whatever we’re doing, whatever it is we do, would align with a calendar year,” said Perryman adding the council did not want to interfere in the middle of a season. He said the council looks forward to having continued discussions with all parties involved.
“This is not about somebody being right or somebody being wrong…that’s not the point at all. We want to facilitate the best experience for the kids,” said Perryman. He said he looks at other sports complexes such as Oxford desires that for Sylacauga. “Right now we have disjointed collection of fields maintained by different people and managed by different people. I would love to find a way to build something bigger and better and more comprehensive for anybody who wants to play any sport. I don’t want to take anything away from anybody. But that’s not the point. The point is to set the wheels in motion so that we can have everything in unified planning as we move forward,” he said.