Alabama District 9 Senator Clay Scofield assured Snead town councilors of his support in their efforts to obtain a traffic signal at the town’s U.S. 278 and Ala 75 intersection. Councilman Greg Ogles had begun that push months ago. First-term Mayor La’Shone Price joined the fight once he took office, meeting with Scofield prior to the Jan. 5 meeting.
An Alabama Department of Transportation study had determined the intersection did not warrant the signal. In revisiting that negative decision before the council, Scofield announced, “I told them that wouldn’t do. It needed to come back positive.”
The Arab legislator advised he has called for another study. He cited a report the previous calculation did not include turning vehicles which distorted the count. Scofield reminded councilors that the town would have to pay any maintenance and operational costs for a signal.
Councilman Phillip McHan had asked if those charges would include the cost of anticipated turn lanes. Scofield indicated he understood the state would handle that and promised he would get as much out of them [the state] as he possibly could.
The second-term senator contrasted the perceived flawed study with his own personal experiences in asserting the need for the signal.
Mayor’s report and requests
In the Thursday meeting, moved from its usual second Monday of the month, Price updated councilors on his actions since the last session on Dec. 12. He reported progress in preparing a job description for any potential new cleaning service contract for town facilities.
He indicated he had not received requested department access from fire Chief Lee Netherton. Netherton advised of his just receiving the request on that day following his out-of-town holidays. Price had noted he needs the keys to permit pest control spraying in those areas.
Price reported he had prepared a guideline script for town employees on answering office calls. Related to that, he proposed the council consider a monthly $99 contract with an answering service for after-hours telephone calls. [Councilors, later, chose to table that suggestion until further study.]
Councilors, with Price abstaining, approved reimbursing the mayor $1439.53 for expenses he had incurred. The reimbursement covered two $499.98 Dyson Ball vacuums, Sam’s Club membership for town use, and a new town hall Christmas tree and decorations.
Price, Netherton, and several council members discussed town maintenance needs. Price reported the town truck driven by previous mayors and which he recently tested was in the shop for tuning.
He advised that the town community center, rented for community events, where the council meets, and where the town holds court, needs re-roofing. Veteran councilors advised of prior approval to replace lights inside the building as the mayor noted unspecified work there by part-time utilities employee John Sanders. Price asked for a list of prior approved projects to permit his attention to their completion.
Netherton reported 606 fire department runs during the 2016 calendar year. He labeled that the largest number since 2010 and reported the department the fourth- or fifth-busiest in the county.
McHan read an appreciation letter from the Altoona Fire Department. Their chief thanked the Snead Fire Department for its help on a fire call on Nov. 28.
That cooperation tied into questions previously addressed to police Chief Alan Hicks. Price had quizzed about protection for the town when Snead officers leave to assist others. Hicks noted some provisions for that but also explained that other departments provide help to Snead when it needs such. He asserted that all of Alabama’s 67 counties have similar mutual aid agreements among their county law enforcement agencies.
Hicks had presented applications for part-time officers Shane Best and Trey White. Councilors sought details of the need and appeared in agreement with Hicks, but they did not act on the request.
Utilities department head and designated safety coordinator Jeff Whited reported a skid car training session set for April 18-28. Councilors approved member Dale Snead’s motion to send all drivers of city vehicles for the training. Utilities department
Whited reported the need for a new chlorinator. He explained he would like to purchase an additional to have in reserve and would like to return to a regular maintenance inspection contract. He noted purchase of the prior inspection company, and that the town had not yet explored a new agreement. Councilors approved purchase of one new chlorinator and authorized Whited to obtain quotes for a new inspection contract.
Whited then asked whether or not the town intended to continue its practice of providing uniforms or uniform allowances for his department employees. Members seemed unable to decide between purchasing uniforms or contracting with a uniform service. They approved purchase of some items perceived as immediately needed and soliciting prices for uniform options.
Whited did report that one of his employees had called about taking the sewer operator certification examination. He noted the price has increased considerably to $335. Councilors voted to approve the expense in pursuit of a long-desired backup assistant for Whited.
First discussed at the original November council installation, councilors introduced a proposed rules of order. Price and councilor Ann Sullins voted against the introduction. Lacking unanimous introductory approval, the ordinance is carried over for an upcoming meeting.
A proposed funeral escort ordinance drew extended comments from Price as well as some from attending observers. Prior to Price’s assuming office, some had questioned the propriety of his role over police as mayor and his role as the town funeral home director in requesting police funeral escorts.
The town received clearance to continue the practice from the state attorney general and ethics commission. Town attorney Brett King suggested the town might address the matter with an ordinance. After some discussion, King prepared a possible ordinance noting that no other municipality in the state has such. He had indicated he felt the town could pass an ordinance or continue the practice without the ordinance.
The agenda listed consideration of the possible ordinance as an order of business. McHan questioned whether or not the ordinance would require police to perform the escort if an emergency arose. Ogles asked how far the police would escort. King indicated that police emergencies would take precedence over the escort and that the escort service covered only the town of Snead and its police jurisdiction.
Price then commented that councilors should make sure the ordinance had everything they wanted. He opined, “Citizens think we’re up here trying to stop funeral processions to punish me.”
Senior citizens center director Jane Childers, authorized to speak, questioned, “Why has this come up?” In summary, she spoke of the escorts as a courtesy and the continuing debate as a “ridiculous question.” She elaborated, “I can’t understand why you can’t just say let it go on.”
Price again spoke of the belief of some that he is being punished. He continued, “If [people] will come to these meetings and pay close attention, [they] will see where it’s coming from…. It’s a ploy to hurt me. What are we saying to our senator, now? We want safety but….”
Resident observer Margaret Humbard commented that Price had defeated three other candidates without a runoff and suggested he be allowed to govern. Blount County Farmers Federation Board Director Dennis Maze, who had arrived with son Jeff, Price, and Scofield, spoke of the escorts as both a courtesy and safety provision, appearing to press for their continuation.
Ogles echoed similarly that the escorts have been a “courtesy thing [that] we’ve always done.” He added that he had never received a call from a citizen [on them].
Price asserted the escorts will continue. He noted, “[some] are trying to mandate my decision. When a family asks me for an escort and why all of a sudden it is an issue when it never has been… never… I’ll just explain to them when I have them in my funeral home.”
In another matter, Ogles returned to a question of cross training town hall employees. Town clerk Rae Ware explained that there is “no good time for cross training.” She explained that employee specializations often require the three hall employees to pursue their specific roles at the same time.
Ogles pressed, asserting that in the past couple of years Ware was absent and the town needed a check written. An employee reportedly had told Ogles only Ware could write checks. Ware contended that others may write checks, if needed.
In continued discussion, Sullins proposed that some employees have no interest in cross training. Price then offered to speak with employees to see if that understanding might be in error.
Whited spoke, indicating the town has had two applications for positions. Price questioned why he had not known of these applications, emphasizing he did not like to be “blindsided.”
Ware responded she had placed them in a folder for the mayor but apologized that he had not received them.
Councilman Tim Kent asked an addition to the record to address a concern by town auditor Lori Criswell. Kent indicated Criswell felt the reported events suggested she had not shown up for a scheduled meeting. She wished it clarified that she was not scheduled to be at the town hall on the day indicated.
All members attended the Jan. 5 meeting. The council returns to its regularly scheduled second and fourth Monday meeting nights with its Jan. 23, 7 p.m., session. As noted, members meet at the town community center.