Athens City Hall

The city of Athens seemingly enjoyed a successful fiscal year 2019, as it amassed a $2.7 million budget surplus, City Clerk Annette Barnes Threet announced at Monday's City Council meeting.

The council then voted to set aside $450,000 for retiree insurance while earmarking $1.65 million for capital expenditures. Of that, $950,000 will be spent on needs within the city's sanitation department and $700,000 will be put toward capital expenditures in other departments.

Sanitation Director Earl Glaze on Tuesday described his needs as critical, especially considering his service area is growing. He said he picked up 100 new customers between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2019.

The $950,000 received by his department will be used to purchase a new front-loader truck for business dumpsters, a residential sanitation truck, a knuckle-boom truck for right of way collections, a mower and two pickup trucks.

“I don't know what we'd do if (the council) didn't approve these,” he said.

After those expenditures, nearly $650,000 was left for the city's reserves. Threet said the city's bond holders prefer to see slow, measured reserve growth as opposed to it “bouncing all around.”

The new reserve funds mean Athens now has a 24.2% reserve surplus, which is up from 22.7%. By council resolution, Athens is required to have 15% in reserve.

Rezoning request

Additionally, the council held a public hearing and approved an ordinance to rezone 4.4 acres of property at 330 W. Elm St. The owners, Mark Wilson, Johnnie H. Wilson, Fred J. Wilson, Ollye M. Ward and Melinda Patterson, requested the zoning be changed from single-family high residential district to general business district.

Public Works Director James Rich told the council the Athens Planning Commission did not make a recommendation and instead passed it on to the council for consideration. He told the council the general business district did not necessarily fit the location because such a designation is suited for higher intensity corridors like U.S. 31 and U.S. 72.

Rich also explained the layout of the property would make it difficult to meet buffer and parking requirements. He said the city's planning staff suggested the property be rezoned as a traditional neighborhood district, which would accommodate commercial, retail and residential use.

“I'm going to support this,” District 5 Councilman Wayne Harper said of the ordinance as presented. “If we're ever going to revitalize that area, we need more businesses coming in.”

On Tuesday, Rich said the owners have not announced plans for the property.

Other business

• Appointed Teresa Brown to the Houston Memorial Library Board for a four-year term, expiring Jan. 11, 2024;

• Appointed Harper to the Solid Waste Authority for a three-year term expiring Jan. 13, 2023;

• Reappointed Henry White to the personnel board for five-year term, expiring Jan. 12, 2025;

• Approved a special events on-premises retail beer and wine license for the National Wild Turkey Federation (Limestone Longbeards);

• Authorized the Street Department to extend sidewalks along Lindsay Lane from just north of Summit Lakes Drive at a cost not to exceed $17,000;

• Accepted the low bid from Siemens for three 161 kilovolt circuit breakers and spare parts for the Moss Spring substation at a cost of $146,950;

• Accepted the low bid from Siemens for two 46 kilovolt circuit breakers and spare parts for the Ardmore primary substation at a cost of $75,710;

• Accepted the low bid from ABB for three 15 kilovolt circuit breakers and spare parts for the Moss Springs substation at a cost of $88,796.79;

• Authorized spending $618,480 from 2018 general obligation warrants for Swan Creek trunk line sewer improvements, including an engineering report from KREBS Engineering ($28,300) as required by an Alabama Department of Environmental Management consent order related to a May 2019 sanitary sewer overflow and resulting fish kill. Other expenditures include a flow monitoring study by KREBS ($113,900) and sewer improvements by Hawkins Groundwork ($476,280), the low bidder; and

• Entered into an agreement with BAT Traffic Solutions for the installation of traffic loops at certain locations. Rich said when Jefferson Street is milled and resurfaced, it will damage wires under the pavement that control the traffic lights.

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