Anniston City Council debates roads, wards
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Apr 11, 2012 | 3478 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A discussion at Tuesday’s Anniston City Council meeting about hiring a consulting engineer to work on city road projects brought up a familiar query -– are some wards maintained better than others?

Councilmen did vote unanimously Tuesday to hire Gresham, Smith and Partners to consult on the some partly state-funded road projects, but not before a heated discussion about how the city decides which streets get work and which can wait.

The city will have to pay 20 percent of the projects, which include safety improvements at Greenbrier Dear Road and drainage improvements at Summerall Gate Road. In addition, the planned work includes a portion for which the city will have to pay 100 percent of the cost.

Councilman Ben Little asked why the city scheduled that additional work with the state-funded projects rather than considering work in other parts of the city.

“We are allocating a paving project,” Little said. “There’s not a balance.”

Tying that small portion of a road at a cost of about $15,000 into the state-funded project is cost effective, said Bob Dean, director of Anniston’s public works department.

“If we just did that separate, it would cost probably twice as much,” Dean said. “Since they’re already deployed -- manpower and materials right there -- we would get a cost break.”

But Little said he was concerned about fairness.

“That amount of money in that area should be considered when we’re doing paving projects,” Little said. “We can always use the excuse, ‘while we’re here let’s just do this.’”

City Manager Don Hoyt said the city engineers are currently assessing the city’s roads for condition and traffic, to create a prioritized list of road projects. That list will come to the council for approval before it is added to the city’s five-year plan, Hoyt said. The members can make any changes they please, Hoyt said, but the list will be compiled based on need.

“It does include streets in all wards because the streets have been neglected in all wards,” Hoyt said. “So, there’s plenty of them to choose from.”

Little said he wanted to decide what was going to be paved in Ward 3.

“I expect each council member will have that right,” Little said. “I respect what the engineers are trying to do, but I’m the one getting the phone calls.”

Councilman Jay Jenkins said he felt Public Works employees had the best perspective to know how to prioritize the projects.

“We all get phone calls at home; we all get requests from constituents,” Jenkins said. “It’s very easy to manage paving projects if we can all say the same thing -– that engineer surveys determine the roads in greatest need, priorities have been established by Public Works and the city manager.”

Jenkins said if that all happens in Ward 3 it doesn’t matter, as long as the roads most in need get addressed.

Mayor Gene Robinson said at one time 40 percent of the work being done by the city was being done in Ward 3. That won’t happen again, he said.

“If you divided it out between the four wards and at large it would be about 20 percent each,” Robinson said. “That hasn’t taken place at all.”

But Robinson said he agreed with Jenkins. He just wanted to point out the inequity between wards, Robinson said.

Planning on the projects should start in 2013 with construction beginning in 2014, Dean said.

The councilmen also heard from residents in a subdivision in McClellan, some who wanted their neighborhood on Littlebrandt Drive blocked from traffic from Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School, and some who did not. Residents on the street had circulated two petitions about locking a gate installed by the developer during the construction of the subdivision.

Some residents wanted the gate locked and emergency personnel, as well as each resident, given a key to the gate for use in case of an emergency. Others wanted the gate left open for convenience and so that emergency personnel would not have an obstacle to the neighborhood.

Councilman Jenkins agreed to meet with residents on both sides of the issue to try to reach some consensus.

In other business, the council:

-- Unanimously approved the Calhoun County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan .

-- Appointed Wanda Hall to the Library Board.

-- Authorized Robinson to execute a lease for a street-sweeper. The bid for the sweeper was approved in October.

-- Approved the establishment of a Department of Planning and Economic Development for the city with a vote of 3-1. Little voted no. Councilman David Dawson was absent. City Planner Toby Bennington will direct the department, city officials said, but details of the new department’s structure have yet to be worked out.

-- Approved restoring the traffic light at Christine Avenue and 10th Street.

-- Approved a liquor license for Anthony’s Mexican Restaurant on Noble Street.

-- Approved the purchase of a 15-passenger van through a grant for use by the Senior Citizens Center. The $48,000 van will cost the city $9,600 after the grant funding.

-- Voted 3-1 to give the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Club $4,000 to create a video to market the Noble Street Festival. Robinson voted against the proposal.

Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.

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