Terry Acuff, the city’s grant writer, was on hand to answer questions about grants the city is trying to obtain for the purpose of road improvements and economic development.
One of the grants the city hopes to get will be used for paving and improving Nauvoo Road as well as replacing a bridge on the road, which runs through the city from Alabama Highway 118 to future Interstate 22.
“We were hoping we were going to be able to get this project started with a little help from the Alabama Department of Transportation, but the cost to pave the road and fix the bridge is going to be about $2 million with a 20 percent match from the city,” Mayor James “Pee Wee” Richardson said. “And the engineers from ALDOT said the bridge on that road, in their opinion, is safe enough for a school bus to cross it, and they don’t see any reason to replace it at this point. But I disagree with them.”
Richardson said the large concrete beams used to build the overpass at the Nauvoo Road interchange were carried across the bridge when I-22/Corridor X was built, and other engineers who have looked at the bridge said it needs to be replaced.
“Several questions were raised at the hearing, so the discussion about this project is still ongoing for now,” Richardson said. “But I’m of the opinion, why wait? Why should we wait for something to happen and end up replacing the bridge anyway. Why not get it done now, before something tragic happens and the finger pointing begans.”
Richardson said Carbon Hill is also eligible for a single purpose grant for $350,000 with a 10 percent match from the city, which would allow the replacement of a number of outdated water and sewer lines.
“The Carbon Hill Utilities Board has agreed to fund the match for this grant, and it will allow us to replace a number of old cast iron water and sewer lines that are still being used in the city,” Richardson said. “We also discussed stepping up our revitalization projects by making a list of the properties in our community that have become a public nuisance.”
During Thursday’s council meeting, District 5 council member Chris Pschirer headed up a discussion about the city making a list of the properties located within the city limits which need to be cleaned up. Pschirer said the former city council made some headway regarding this matter and he hoped the current city council could agree to continue along the same path.
“We have a lot of properties in our city, which have been let go that need to be cleaned up, especially with spring and summer coming on,” Pschirer said. “A list was complied by the city a while back and notices were sent out to at least 10 property owners asking them to comply with the city’s public nuisance ordinance.”
Pschirer said several of the property owners on the list complied with the ordinance before the city had to move in and clean up the property.
Richardson agreed with Pschirer and said he was all for the current council continuing the drive to revitalize Carbon Hill.
“Right now we have the best opportunity we’ve ever had to grow our city, and I agree with Chris that we need to give the street department the go ahead to compile a new list and get this project back on track,” Richardson said. “Once we compile the list, we will send out notices to the property owners and give them time to comply before we come in, clean things up and then charge them for it.”
During the public comments section of the meeting, Carbon Hill resident Shelia Pschirer asked Richardson about a monument the city has been promising to erect in honor of coal miners who live or lived in Carbon Hill.
“I would just like to know when you’re going to put the statue up and is it going to have your name on it or Chris Hart’s,” Pschirer asked. “I’m just wondering.”
Richardson said he hadn’t really given any thought about the name issue and deferred the question about the monument project to Councilman Pschirer, who was a member of the former council when the project was approved.
“I think there was some kind of discussion about Chris Hart’s name being on the monument, but I can’t give you an honest answer to that particular question,” Pschirer said. “Mainly because I don’t remember exactly what was discussed.”
Richardson said he knew the current council had promised the former mayor and council they would see the project through, but as far as he was concerned the only names that should be put on the monument is those of the coal miners in his opinion.
“I told Chris I would see this project through and that’s what I plan to do, but as far as the name of a mayor being put on the monument, I don’t think that’s proper,” Richardson said.
Richardson said the monument has been delivered, but weather has held up the project.
“We’re hoping to get on it this weekend, since it’s supposed to be pretty,” Richardson said. “If not we’ll try for next Thursday for sure.”
There was also some discussion regarding rules of addressing the council during a meeting. The council voted 5 to 1 to uphold the council’s rule which requires any person, persons or group wishing to be put on the agenda at any Carbon Hill City Council meeting to fill out a special form before they can appear before the council.
The form must be filled out and returned to the mayor on the Friday before the second or fourth Thursday in each month.
Richardson said the form will list the person’s name and the reason why they would like to be put on the agenda.
“We will look over all the forms that have been turned in before each meeting and decide which ones will be put on the agenda for that meeting,” Richardson said. “This is not a new rule, it’s already in the city council’s handbook, but it hasn’t been followed that much, until now.”
In a police issue, Ron Colburn, the city’s acting police chief said the Carbon Hill Police Department has handled a total of 29 cases so far in March, including five cases of forgery/ATM fraud, five drug cases, two public intoxication cases, five warrants, three criminal mischief cases, one accident report and eight miscellaneous reports.
The council also addressed and approved the following items during Thursday’s council meeting:
• Voted to require all city employees to pay 30 percent toward their insurance.
• Rescinded the council’s recent vote regarding the number of paid holidays for city employees. The council voted to leave the employee holidays as they were prior to the council’s March 7 vote.
• Approved the placement of some street lamps (Alabama Power flood lamps) on 1st Avenue S.W. and Widow’s Lane in Carbon Hill in an effort to light up certain areas of those neighborhoods.
• Gave Carbon Hill Rescue Squad permission to purchase gas from the city and pay the bill at the first of each month.
• Approved the hiring of a part-time dispatcher for the city’s police and fire departments to replace a full-time dispatcher who recently resigned from his job.
The Carbon Hill City Council meets the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. inside the council chambers at the Carbon Hill Community Center.