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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
After being unable to meet in January, the Rockford Town Council had a lengthy agenda for last Tuesday evening’s meeting, with the majority of the items being discussion only.
Aside from standard action items such as approving the December meeting minutes and the financial statements, only two other agenda items received votes.
All council members were present for the meeting, with Councilmember Karen Hammond participating via speakerphone.
Mayor Scott White informed the council that it needed to review the mayor and council raises, which were approved in December. However, he said the town needs to amend those meeting minutes to reflect that the raise will go into effect “when the next mayor and council takes over,” or starting with the next term.
He explained that the ordinance states that the raise would have to be done six months prior to the election. He said this will allow the town to be covered for the next term. He added that was why the council members did not see an increase in their checks.
“We need to make a motion to amend the December 14, 2021, minutes to read that they [the raises] will take effect…in 2025,” White said.
The council unanimously approved amending the December minutes to that effect.
Debi Stover made a presentation to the council similar to what she presented to Kellyton Town Council regarding Upward Sports. She said they wanted to bring back something similar to Little League for the county, but with a ministry aspect.
She reviewed program information with the council and attendees relating to the county-wide Upward K-6 youth sports ministry. She said they were hoping to be able to partner with the Town of Rockford to have a practice location within District 4 of the county.
Stover said this program would give area youth an opportunity to have a relationship with Jesus and for families in the community to be able to connect with their local churches, as well as be beneficial to the communities. Additionally, she said it will help the county school system.
“I know you understand, we’re all interconnected,” she said. “So the stronger our communities, the stronger our families, the stronger our school system, the stronger our county – it’s all interconnected.”
She told the council they are now in the process of contacting churches throughout the county to partner with them and also seeking volunteers for various needs.
Practices for each sport would be held in local designated places throughout the county, allowing youth to practice within their communities during the week. They would then come together on Saturdays at Central schools for their games.
“I personally think it’s a great idea,” Mayor White said. “The youth need something to do in the county.”
Councilmember Robert Smith asked how long the program would last, and Stover explained the various sports will be held almost year round.
The proposed 2022 season is for basketball and cheer from April through June, soccer for August through September, volleyball for October through November, and flag football and cheer from December through January.
The proposed 2023 season is for basketball and cheer from February through March, baseball and softball from May through June, soccer from August through September, volleyball from October through November, and flag football and cheer from December through January.
Stover ultimately requested a partnership with the town for use of the old school facility, specifically the gym, for practices to be held locally.
White said that he did not believe it would be an issue with the town’s insurance or liability, adding that it should fall under the town’s existing umbrella of coverage.
Following Stover’s presentation and discussion, the council unanimously approved a motion to allow Stover and the Upward Sports group use of the Rockford Event Center, or the old gym, for local practices.
Those interested in volunteering or learning more about the Upward Sports program may text Stover at 256-401-3281 for additional information.
In other business, Councilmember Shirley Ogle brought up the subject of a town ordinance and a local “trash pile” for discussion during the meeting.
She explained that she was speaking on others’ behalf and speaking for the community. She provided the council with photos and said that behind Washington Street there is a trash pile that “certain ones are getting concerned about.”
Ogle further said that she knew Mayor White had contacted the property owner about it, but that she told concerned citizens she would address it at the meeting.
White explained that he contacted the owner to let them know the town had received some complaints and requesting that the trash be cleaned up, referencing Ordinance 545, which he said the town provided to its attorney, Derrick Blythe, for review. Blythe said there were a few things in the ordinance that need to be changed.
“And the pile just keeps growing and growing,” Ogle said.
Ronnie Joiner, who was in attendance for the meeting, stated, “I’ll save y’all a lot of trouble. I will clean it up tomorrow.”
Ogle stated that was fine with her; however, White said there were other things in the ordinance that need to be addressed and corrected, “not just that pile.”
In further discussion, Blythe agreed to further review the ordinance and suggest revisions to be made.
Also during the meeting, Joiner addressed the council regarding Nixburg Road, which connects Alabama Highway 22 and U.S. Highway 231 and runs next to the Board of Education and near the Department of Human Resources.
Joiner said that as the county commissioner for District 4 he has received numerous complaints about that road in Rockford. However, he said he has nothing to do with city roads since he is a county official.
“I just wanted to know if y’all intend to work on it and fix it anytime soon,” he said.
White said he sent people there the week before to do some work on the road. He mentioned various delays in repairing the road, as well as a drainage issue that needs to be addressed.
He further said that he approached the County Commission eight months ago to ask about what could be done and that it was agreed the county would work with the town to do some of the work. However, he said he never received a quote and has not gotten any responses from County Engineer Tad Eason and also never received a quote from another paving company he contacted.
“There are roads that need work, and we’re looking into that,” White said.
He added that the town has a little road money, but that if it spends it all on one road there would be no funds left for maintenance. He said the town is trying to get quotes for repairing the road and is also looking into grants.
Councilmember Smith asked if Joiner would contact Eason to see if he intends to get the town a quote on what the county would charge the town to fix the road. Joiner said that he would talk to Eason about it.
In other business, White reported that the individuals who were going to tear down the old home economics building changed their minds and said it would be too much trouble to tear it down once they came to look at it.
However, he said a representative with the University of Alabama is working on helping the town get a grant to “hopefully restore that whole building.”
In discussing the deteriorating condition of the building, local attorney John K. Johnson said, “Isn’t it becoming a nuisance in and of itself? That’s bigger than a trash pile. You need to do something with it.”
However, Ogle said the building does not look as bad as a “trash pile,” with Johnson referring to the dilapidated building as a “large nuisance.”
White also mentioned painting the old agriculture building which the Sheriff’s Office uses now. He said he had talked with Sheriff Michael Howell about painting the building, with the town providing the paint and Howell providing the labor.
The town agreed to go with the color white for repainting the building, and White said that he would get quotes for that.
Also during the meeting, White reviewed renovations done at Town Hall, with the library and council room being swapped. He mentioned that some of the changes being made are in the hopes of preparing for a municipal court and having a judge in the facility.
White also reported that the town has moved the COVID-19 money into its fund, and he asked Blythe to look into uses for that money.
Blythe reported that the town cannot use the COVID-19 funds for bonuses, but that the town can use it for one-time pay increases, hiring new employees, or for equipment and vehicles.
In other business, White reported that the town received a Good Roots Grant for $2,500 to upgrade the existing town signs and add additional signs.
During the meeting the council also heard from Tim Hatch, east central district administrator with Alabama Department of Public Health, with information relating to a health department reopening in Coosa County.
Similar to his presentation to the County Commission, Hatch explained that the health department will be located in the Accordia Health building. This means it will be located in the same facility in Rockford where it was housed before it closed in 2016.
Hatch said Alabama Department of Public Health signed a lease on February 1 for that space, and they hope to have the department open within about six months.
Police Chief Jamie Hammond also provided the council and attendees with some updates and information from the Police Department, including virtual class hours, the “Click it or Ticket” program with ADECA and holding checkpoints when the weather improves.
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Rockford Town Council will be held at 6 p.m. March 15.