The Anniston City Council moved forward Thursday with plans to create two downtown historic districts, a move preservationists say is critical in saving some of the city’s oldest buildings and in encouraging growth.
One historic district would include property along Noble Street, between Ninth and 14th streets, and the other along West 15th Street between Cooper Avenue and Walnut Avenue.
The Anniston Historic Preservation Commission on Oct. 17 approved the resolution to create the two districts. The City Council has final approval, however.
Thursday’s public hearing was split into two separate hearings, one for each proposed district.
Several residents and business owners spoke on the matter, some with concerns that they don’t know enough about the details of the historic districts.
General Jackson, who owns a business on West 15th Street, expressed such concerns.
“I’d like to get a lot more information concerning that,” Jackson said.
Others spoke enthusiastically about creating the districts.
Bill Couch, owner of a downtown business, said further development of downtown is important to the area’s economy.
“I do think that if the entire downtown area had this type of situation … I certainly think it would be a beautiful thing and an important thing to do,” Couch said.
Mayor Vaughn Stewart asked that a work session be set to further discuss creation of the historic districts. A date for that work session was not set Thursday.
If the council approves the resolution, owners of property within the districts would have to get any changes to the outside of their property approved by the commission. Work done inside property requires no such approval.
In another matter, the council voted to set fees to be charged by the Anniston Police Department for certain services to the public.
City Manager Brian Johnson said other police departments charge similar fees, and that the money collected would be used to pay for the Police Department’s training and equipment.
The fees, which Johnson said are the same as those charged by Alabama State Troopers, include $15 for 8 x 10 photos, $5 for audio statements, $250 for scale diagrams of auto accidents, $100 for video recordings, and $2 per sheet for traffic accident investigation reports.
Councilman David Reddick, the only council member to vote against the motion, said it would create an unfair burden on the city’s poorest residents.
“I have a hard time supporting this,” Reddick said. “If you’re requesting this, it means that you don’t have the money for an attorney to request it anyway…I think it’s excessive.”
Johnson said after the meeting that the types of services covered in the motion aren’t requested by individuals, but rather attorneys working on accident cases.
The council also agreed Thursday to enter into a contract with the Calhoun County 911 District to handle dispatch services for the Anniston Fire Department.
The Fire Department had taken emergency calls internally, said Kevin Jenkins, director of Calhoun County 911 Board of Commissioners.
Tasking 911 to handle those emergency calls will improve the speed and efficiency of responding to those calls, Jenkins said.
Johnson said the fire department’s dispatcher also had other duties. This move would create a dedicated dispatcher with state-of-the-art equipment, he said.
“They’ll take a burden off the fire department,” Johnson said. Outsourcing the department’s dispatch service will cost approximately $65,000 annually, which is nearly the same cost the city currently pays for the service, Johnson said.
The council also agreed to pay Calhoun County 911 for backup dispatch services for the Anniston Police Department.
The Anniston office of Calhoun County 911 moved the agency’s primary office from Anniston to Jacksonville.
Since the move, the agency has maintained the Anniston building as a backup location in the event the Jacksonville office had to be evacuated, Jenkins said.
By moving the backup location the agency will save approximately $40,000 each year on maintaining the old building, Jenkins said.
In other business, the council:
— Authorized City Manager Brian Johnson to approve a modification agreement between the city, Rocco D’Gomez, Chandler Scott Wilborn and Wesley Hunter for the lease of the restaurant at Cane Creek golf course.
— Agreed to pay not more than $1,160 for music production and recording for the Cobb Elementary Choir.
— Authorized submission of two grant applications under the Assistance to Firefighters Program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
— Voted to cancel the regular meeting, scheduled for Dec. 24.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.