Snead accepts offer as settlement in land question

Snead Mayor Cutis Painter presented a proposed settlement to a disputed land question dealing with the use of town property by local businessman Alan Smith. According to Painter, Smith had taken dirt from town land adjacent to his property in the town’s industrial park. The council had voted at its Sept. 23 meeting to have the land assessed and have Smith pay that assessed value for the land from which he had removed dirt.

Painter announced the town would have to pay for a survey before it could have an appraisal. Anticipating those costs, Painter indicated Smith had offered to donate $500 to the town’s park and recreation department rather than purchase the questioned land. Painter proposed that the council accept the offer and view the matter as a “closed deal.”

Councilman Greg Ogles, who heads the park and recreation department, spoke in favor of the proposal but indicated his unhappiness over the whole matter. He noted that the only problem he had was that the dispute got on “Facebook.” “We wouldn’t have had that if we’d done it right,” he said.

Jack Freeman, as in the September discussion, professed partial blame for the confusion, saying he had perhaps led Smith to believe that no one had a problem with his using the dirt. Freeman suggested that Smith may even have increased the value of the town land by removing a rock up-cropping. (Smith reported at the September session he had used the dirt in constructing a settlement pond for his A&J Steel Fabricating business.)

The mayor’s proposed motion passed with councilor Dale Snead abstaining.

Following that matter, Painter asked for a motion to recess into executive session. At that point The Blount Countian reporter asked the legal reason for the needed executive session and received no answer. Snead announced he was not willing to vote for the private session without knowing a reason why.

Town attorney Brett King then interjected that he was unaware of a reason for the session. King noted he had been asked to attend the meeting by town clerk Rae Ware. He said that he knew of no need for an executive session for any litigation involving the town. He said he could update the council in vague enough terms to avoid any “good name and character” meeting exceptions. He suggested that the mayor continue the meeting and see if any matters arose which would qualify for an executive session under Alabama municipal law. The session continued without the recess.

Discussion then shifted to a dispute from a previous meeting over bereavement pay. Painter cited a 2006 town ordinance which defined a work day as an eight-hour shift. Police chief Phillip Weaver had sought clarification of town policy regarding bereavement pay and the differences in shift hours for his department’s officers and other regular town employees.

Snead took the lead in pressing for a change to consider police bereavement based on a 12-hour day. As the discussion grew animated, Ogles suggested the council table the matter for a later session.

Utilities supervisor Jeff Whited reported power has been connected to the town’s new water booster station. He said it should be available for operation after testing. He also announced the storm shelter could now be used, although power is not yet connected to the structure. He asked and received permission to purchase stone for the shelter’s parking area. Councilors advised him to wait on another matter of a right-of-way tree removal to see if the electric provider might do that work for the town.

Councilors approved purchase of a replacement fire vehicle for the chief. They accepted a local bid of $27,387 for the crew cab pickup. That price runs almost $400 more than the state bid list from a Bay Minette dealer. They also approved re-investing two town certificates of deposit, Painter’s request to purchase refreshments for a mayors’ meeting the town will host, and the purchase of $400 worth of candy for the town’s annual Halloween trunk-or-treat.

Councilman Charles Sanders joined Painter, Freeman, Snead, and Ogles for the Oct. 14 session, with councilor Phillip McHan absent. The council holds its regular meetings the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in its community center.