The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 12, 2012

Grant would replace fire prevention trailer

By Kim West

— The Athens City Council accepted a request from Athens Fire and Rescue to apply for a federal fire prevention and safety grant to purchase a new fire prevention trailer.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant would provide $112,619 with a 10 percent match of $11,270 from the city to replace the existing fire prevention safety house and buy a carport cover. The mobile house is currently located behind Station No. 3 on Lindsay Lane.

“About 2 1/2 years ago — unknown to us — the skylights cracked and let water into the trailer,” Fire Chief Tony Kirk said. “After the floor rotted out, (then) Chief (Danny) Southard looked into replacing it, and it’s almost the same (cost) to replace it as to repair it.

“The trailer we’re looking at now is not only for fire safety. It also has hazardous weather training built into it, and it has a set of woofer speakers that makes the trailer shake to simulate storm noise. And it has a sprinkler demonstration room.”

The new mobile unit will be equipped with state-of-the-art features for community education, including a flat-screen television, interactive touch screens, remote control stations and a kitchen set up to mimic a fire.

“It would be an excellent training tool,” Prevention Chief James Hand said. “It’s more interactive for kids, and we could use it for hazardous weather training for seniors.”

The grant will be open for applicants from Dec. 17 to Jan. 18, 2013, and it could be six to 10 months before the city’s application is approved.

Councilman Jimmy Gill asked Kirk to find out the total cost of refurbishing the current safety house, in case the grant application isn’t approved.

Gill also asked the fire chief if it would be feasible to use Station No. 1 to house the trailer instead of buying a carport cover. Kirk said it would interfere with operations at the station if the trailer was stored in one of the bays.

Promoting patriotism

Representatives from the Huntsville-based Liberty Learning Foundation promoted the Liberty Program, which aims to provide civics, character education, financial literacy and career development to students through a variety of supplemental teaching methods.

Patti Yancey, a Liberty Learning consultant, described the foundation’s mission as “teaching, inspiring and empowering the next great Americans” and “revitalizing the American spirit because we’ve swung too far in the other direction.”

Yancey said the foundation “has the buy-in” from the Athens City Schools system and has program resource kits ready for the 11 fifth-grade classes in the system. The kits are priced at $250 each and are designed for 25 students per classroom.

Liberty Learning requested a $5,750 appropriation from the city, including the $2,750 cost of the kits, $1,200 for the program kickoff event and $1,000 for “video/reporting of donor impact.”

The council is expected to approve appropriations for nonprofits and community groups next Monday.

Outstanding officers

The council lauded new Athens Police officers Jarrod Smith and Matt McWhorter, who recently graduated from a class of 90 at the Northeast Alabama Police Academy at Jacksonville State University. Smith won a firearms award, while McWhorter was elected class president. McWhorter also received the Director’s Award as an outstanding class member.

Officer of the Year Eric White, Employee of the Year Lt. Charlie Clem, Detective of the Year Sgt. Johnny Campbell and Reserve Officer of the Year Abe Niedzwiecki were honored by their peers during the recent Athens Police awards banquet.

Continuing education

Council President Harold Wales suggested the council hold a two or three-hour work session early next year with Wastewater Department Manager John Stockton to learn more about water services.

“We’ve got two major budgets, the General Fund and Utilities,” Wales said. “I personally know more about the General Fund budget, a $22 to $30 million budget.

“Let’s have a work session with John after the first of the year … we’re talking about a $100 million budget, and we need to have a general idea (about water and wastewater terminology).”

Stockton agreed and also offered to explain the inner workings of his department to council members on an individual basis.

“I’d be happy to take each of you out (to explain the treatment process),” said Stockton, who took first-year councilman Joseph Cannon on an informal tour on Saturday. “At least I know he knows what a flocculator looks like.”

Flocculators are generally made with galvanized or stainless steel and are used for waste or surface water treatment.

In other business, the council:

• Re-appointed Steve Smith to the Athens-Limestone Hospital health board for a six-year term ending Dec. 31, 2018;

• Approved the final adjustments to the fiscal year 2012 budgets for the Wastewater and Water departments;

• Accepted the transfer of one construction crew member from the Water Department to the Wastewater Department;

• Agreed to place four maintenance workers — two apiece from the Wastewater and Water departments — under a single supervisor without changes in pay grade or classification; and

• Appropriated no more than $21,000 from the city’s General Fund to contract with Magnolia River Services Inc., in conjunction with Limestone County and the Emergency Management Agency for updated aerial photography of the local area.

The City Council will hold its last 2012 regular meeting at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, in the Athens Police municipal courtroom. It will follow a 3 p.m. work session.