For the first time in more than a decade, the Athens City Council on Monday approved raises for the mayor and council.
Mayor Ronnie Marks said the council had not voted itself a raise since October 2007. He said state law allows the council to set a salary six months prior to a city election, but the rate of pay can't be changed within the next four-year cycle.
The rate of pay for City Council members will rise from $1,000 per month to $1,100 per month. The rate of pay for mayor will rise from $65,000 to $71,500.
The raises will take effect Nov. 1, 2020. Council President Harold Wales defended the raises.
“This City Council puts in hours and hours of time,” he said. “We love serving our city, and we put in all the effort we can and put in a lot of time. Our mayor is the busiest mayor I've ever seen. This is not a large increase, but it's something I support because I believe in it.”
In other matters Monday, an Athens business owner asked the council to reconsider filling an open seat.
The District 4 seat on the council was vacated by Joseph Cannon, who became Limestone County's license commissioner Oct. 1. Several people expressed interest in the seat, but Council President Harold Wales previously announced it was too close to the August 2020 council elections to appoint someone to fill the seat.
Scott Marshall, owner of West End Chevron in District 4, pleaded with council members to change their minds. Marshall told them “you never know what could happen” in terms of health issues or other circumstances that could result in another council vacancy.
District 3 Councilman Frank Travis, who missed a few meetings after being severely injured in a domestic incident, told Marshall eight people had expressed an interest in Cannon's seat, two of whom were heavily supported by District 4 residents.
“How do we select someone?” Travis asked. “How do we solve the dilemma?”
Marshall advised the council to present the candidates at a public meeting and give District 4 residents a chance to meet them and ask questions.
“Let's go ahead and appoint somebody and let them serve the nine or 10 months,” he said. “There are so many unknowns that can happen overnight.”
Jimmy Gill Park update
Also Monday, Marks announced he had an internal meeting regarding Jimmy Gill Park, and added plans to move the park are underway. He said he viewed a rendering of the park, and he next wants to reconvene the park committee.
“I want to get our plans together and put money to it and see how we're going to make it happen,” he said. “It's an exciting looking piece of property, and the entire community will be pleased with what we have laid out.”
Moving the park was necessary to accommodate supplier Toyota Boshoku, which is building a manufacturing facility on West Sanderfer Road, where Jimmy Gill Park was was located. Toyota Boshoku provided $300,000 to the city to move the park.
During a public comment period, Athens resident and city school board member James Lucas sought assurance from the council the project would be a priority.
“We want it prioritized and up front because many people enjoyed it,” he said. “Jimmy Gill would have been pleased to move it, but he would want the citizens to start back enjoying that park.”
Sidewalk bid rejected
Finally Monday, the council rejected a bid to construct sidewalks along Pryor Street and U.S. 31, and authorized a revision of the plans so the project could be rebid.
At the Nov. 25 meeting, Public Works Director James Rich told the council Premiere Structures submitted a bid of $670,000 for the project. The project will be completed with a $500,000 federal Transportation Alternative Programs grant.
Rich said the original scope of work has the sidewalk beginning at Athen State University on Pryor Street and continuing to U.S. 31. From there, the sidewalk will turn north, run in front of Dollar General and Jack's and up to Athens High School.
The original plan was to take the sidewalk up to the apartment complex north of the high school, but Rich said that part of the sidewalk would be completed using city forces. Taking that part out of the project scope should result in a lower bid.
In other business, the council:
• Heard a presentation about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott from Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama Conference NAACP, in honor of Alabama's bicentennial;
• Approved an alcohol license for the Del Sur Market on U.S. 72;
• Named Travis president of the City Council and Councilman Wayne Harper president pro tem; and
• Accepted a bid in the amount of $1.38 million from Garnet Electric to build the Moss Springs substation, which will provide power to the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. facility.