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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
The Town of Rockford is reminding residents and passersby driving through town to stop at the 4-way intersection of U.S. Highway 231 and Alabama Highway 22.
The 4-way stop has had ongoing issues with drivers regularly running the stop signs and in some instances causing wrecks. Mayor Scott White and the Town Council discussed the matter during its meeting Tuesday evening.
White stated that he had met with representatives of the Alabama Department of Transportation, and ALDOT put up a camera at the 4-way stop for three months. White said ALDOT representatives said they did not see an issue at the 4-way stop, but that they also stated they did not review the camera footage for the entire three months.
As such, White said they did not see people running the 4-way stop signs as the town does. He added that the state said it is going to happen and that they cannot have someone out there frequently.
However, White said the state is looking at the possibility of improving the area and installing some flashing lights to help make drivers more aware of the 4-way stop, utilizing the type of flashing lights seen in Hoover and other areas. The town would need to drop electrical lines for those, and the flashing lights would be installed for each direction.
White said he had gotten a call from a concerned citizen Monday stating someone ran the 4-way stop and nearly hit her. He also read a letter from a concerned citizen, Bonnie Seevers, to the council.
Seevers explained that she has been a resident of Rockford for the past 14-and-a-half years, living within about 5 miles of the town. In her letter she requested that the Town Council consider having a traffic light to replace the 4-way stop and caution light currently in use.
In part, her letter reads, “On several occasions I personally have witnessed abuse of the right of passage through this intersection. It is not a 4-way slow down, nor does traffic on 231 have the right to ignore the right of drivers waiting their turn on 22 East and 22 West. I am asking for this request to be put on the docket to be addressed to ALDOT, the State of Alabama, and/or to whomever are the necessary personnel to consider this request.”
During discussion, White mentioned that it is typically out-of-town or out-of-state drivers who run the stop signs at the intersection.
He added that Police Chief George Fanning will be cracking down on drivers who make “rolling stops” at the intersection, as well as writing tickets to those who run the stop signs at higher rates of speed.
“So you might want to stop,” White said as a reminder for drivers during the meeting. “We’ve got to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect everyone, as well.”
White and council members stated that it is a serious issue and that running the stop signs happens frequently.
Following discussion, White said the town will do what it can and look into the issue further. He said he would also forward Seevers’ email to the state.
Aside from approving the financial statements and minutes from the previous meeting, the only action the council took during Tuesday’s meeting was in regards to hiring an additional officer. All other agenda items were for discussion only.
During the meeting, Chief Fanning stated that the suspects in the Dollar General burglary case had been identified and that they turned themselves in. Following that brief update, he addressed the council and White about looking for a part-time police officer.
He stated that an additional officer would give the town more coverage, as well as further help with the 4-way stop issue, and he had included a recommendation for an officer in the council members’ packets. He said the recommended individual is up to date on all of his certifications and could start as soon as possible.
Fanning stated that the individual comes highly recommended and that he is willing to work part time. The part-time officer would be working afternoons and weekends to offer more of a police presence in town when Fanning is off work.
During discussion it was stated that the town would utilize some of its COVID-19 funds for hiring a part-time officer.
Following discussion, with Councilmember Shirley Ogle absent, the council unanimously approved hiring the part-time officer at an hourly pay rate of $16 per hour and on a 6-month probation period. Fanning said that the part-time officer would hopefully be able to start work Wednesday if all goes well.
The individual was later identified as Brent Overton, who was previously employed with the Clanton Police Department. A 2014 graduate of Montgomery Police Academy, he worked as an officer with Montgomery Police Department before joining the Clanton Police Department’s force in 2016.
In other business during the meeting, White spoke about town cleanup efforts and beautification, asking residents to please clean up and do what they can to help everyone move forward and keep the town looking nice.
“I hope that we all can come together and work together to make things look better,” White said. “The town is moving forward, from just what I’ve seen in the past three years. There have been great strides in this town, and it takes all of us doing that. We’ve got people noticing.”
He shared a handmade card received from a child Tuesday prior to the meeting, which read “Thank you for your community service.”
“The kids are noticing what’s going on at our parks and stuff and what we’re putting in place for them,” White said. “This is why we’re here.”
Also during the meeting, town attorney Tom Young spoke with the council regarding multiple matters related to the Rockford Utilities Board.
Young mentioned the town trying to get a proper inventory together of everything the town owns and that in that process they discovered some equipment with questionable ownership. Those included a trailer and backhoe.
He stated that the town does have a license to the trailer, which seemed to clear up that questionable piece of equipment. However, he said the backhoe was shared with the Utilities Board and that it was unclear who actually owned it.
During discussion he said it seemed that the town does have some ownership interest in the backhoe. As such he said the board could potentially buy out the town’s portion of it, or that they could address it some other way. Ultimately he said the town is continuing to look into those equipment issues while getting its inventory list compiled.
Young also stated that the town needs to do a lease with the Utilities Board rather than going month to month with the building use. He said the town would need to give the board a 30-day notice, adding that hopefully the town will have the lease in place in May if the board is still using the building at that time.
He stated that the lease will include the tenant’s responsibilities and minor maintenance for which the tenant would be responsible.
During ongoing discussion, Young said that the board will likely notify the town of its anticipated departure date for when it plans to leave the town’s building and move into its own building.
He also spoke of a rent increase, stating that with the lease the current month-to-month $1,000 rent would need to increase to $1,500 or $2,000 per month. He added that the lease would be for any potential future tenants, not just the Utilities Board.
During further discussion, Young said that they will discuss and work on the lease as needed based on the board’s anticipated departure date. He said that overall the lease would be for any tenants further down the road, but that they may have some specific sections for the board with the initial lease agreement, since the board will not expect to occupy the space much longer.
Ultimately, Young said that he will be communicating with board attorney Nancy Kirby to move forward on the matter and will bring it back before the council.
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Rockford Town Council will be held at 6 p.m. April 18.