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The Town of Rockford receives grant funds from Alabama Power’s Good Roots program. Pictured from left are Council members Robert Smith, Shirley Ogle, Lynn Anne Castleberry, Mayor Scott White, Councilmember Nieshia Whetstone, Steve Marlowe with Alabama Power, and Councilmember Cordarius Lee. Photo by Christa Jennings
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
During its regularly scheduled monthly meeting for September, which lasted nearly two hours, the Rockford Town Council tabled three agenda items and approved five action items on the agenda.
Two action items included approving the first view for repealing old ordinances and approving three ordinances that came up for a final vote, as covered in last week’s edition.
Also during the September 19 meeting, the council heard from Hester Hamby, Career Technical Education director for the Coosa County School System, with a request for funds related to the Coosa County Career and Technical Center’s Chew and Chat program. She explained that they started the Chew and Chat series to take students to area businesses, as well as colleges, to help show the students what employment and education pathways are available to them.
Hamby said that she came before the council to ask the town to contribute to the CCCTC fund to help continue the Chew and Chat series.
Councilmember Lynn Anne Castleberry asked about the number of students, and Hamby stated that they usually limit the number to 40 students for the Chew and Chat series, depending on the location and other factors.
Mayor Scott White asked if Hamby had a specific amount in mind. Hamby said that she would love to get $500 for the program, but added that they would be happy with anything.
After brief discussion, the council unanimously approved appropriating $500 to the CCCTC for the Chew and Chat program.
Also during the meeting, Steve Marlowe; community relations manager for Alabama Power, serving the Coosa, Talladega and Tallapoosa areas; addressed the council to present a grant check.
Marlowe stated that the check he was delivering was from Alabama Power Foundation’s Good Roots program. He added that the $1,000 check can be used toward the purchase of new trees to plant in parks and to beautify the town.
In other action items, the council unanimously approved granting raises of $1 per hour for employees on the anniversary of their service dates, meaning that town employees would receive a $1 per hour raise annually.
The council also unanimously approved running an advertisement for a full-time maintenance supervisor position, with the individual to be paid an hourly rate based on experience and work 40 hours per week.
During the meeting the council also dismissed into executive session for 25 minutes to discuss the good name and character of a town employee. No action was taken on the matter when the council reconvened, with White stating that he “will get with that town employee on advisement of the council.”
Regarding the three agenda items that were tabled, the council considered the Coosa County Health Department’s request for an appropriation as brought up at its August meeting.
During discussion, Councilmember Nieshia Whetstone stated that she thinks $10,000 is too much. When Councilmember Shirley Ogle asked about half the amount, Whetstone said that still was too much, particularly considering it is a state agency.
In ongoing discussion, Castleberry said that she wanted clarification on why the health department needs town funds. Ultimately the council unanimously approved tabling the matter to revisit it at “a later date.”
In other business, the council discussed the town’s insurance and sidewalk matters, with White asking town attorney Tom Young to speak on the matter.
Young stated that he was asked about the liability of the sidewalks, saying that the town has insurance to cover anything the town is negligent about regarding the town’s care for maintaining the sidewalks.
He further said that other things are put “out there,” stating that the town can “put things on [its] sidewalk.”
“If somebody else puts something on our sidewalk the problem is that we’re not maintaining it properly, and we’re being negligent regarding that issue, which may make us liable” Young said. “There’s a lot of obstructions to the sidewalks around here, as we know, and we don’t need to be liable for it. We need to maintain them a certain way to be safe by the usage of it for the citizens.”
During discussion White added that the town does have an ordinance against it. He also provided the council with photos of the town sidewalks and obstructions.
He also asked Young to speak on “the awning situation, with stuff hanging down” and mentioned possibly getting agreements with the owners for those.
Young stated that the building owners have 24 inches of sidewalk usage and that anything beyond that is the town’s sidewalk and the town’s responsibility.
He added that there should be no exception to the town’s ordinance, but said that if that is something the town wants to do then he advised the town have an “indemnification aspect” from the building owners. He stated that if someone puts something out on the sidewalk then they are in violation of the ordinance, but said that if the town agrees to let them do it then there “needs to be some kind of indemnification.”
Young advised the council to enforce its ordinances, stating that if it doesn’t then the town is allowing something and is being negligent in doing that.
In discussion and reviewing provided photos, Whetstone asked, “So it’s all about the plants on the sidewalk?”
Young said it would be anything on the sidewalk other than what the town puts on the sidewalk, stating that if someone else puts something on the town’s portion of the sidewalk then it makes the town liable for any issues and could potentially make the town negligent.
White mentioned getting an agreement for business owners with existing awnings that have “already been there,” and Young said those could be grandfathered in with the required indemnification.
During further discussion, White also said that the town has received some complaints about drivers not being able to see when pulling out onto U.S. Highway 231.
He said that he talked to the state about it and said the state told him that they may consider closing School Street down, which White said he does not want to do. However, he said they talked about possibly making it a one-way street since they have had some wrecks, stating that would help with drivers not being able to see when pulling out if it is made into a one-way street, to help with the complaints the town has received.
After discussion, the council unanimously approved tabling the matter to have Young draw up the discussed indemnification revision to present to the council at its next meeting for review and consideration.
In other business, the council also heard from Glen Fuller, manager of Crossroads, regarding seeking an entertainment license for the business, with it having previously been stated that the restaurant would need an entertainment license to have entertainment such as live events and bands.
During discussion at the September meeting, however, Young stated that the town does not have an entertainment license in place and that the town would need to define what that is or what it means. At the time, however, he said that there is not a license like that on the town’s books.
In further discussion, Fuller stated multiple times that they want a license “like Jenny had,” referring to Jennifer Johnson, who owned and operated Twenty-Two & Crew in the same building.
White had Town Clerk Lesle Nelson check and confirmed that the previous business license was for a restaurant serving alcohol, not for entertainment, stating that Crossroads does have the same license as Twenty-Two & Crew.
Fuller asked why Johnson was able to have live bands, dart boards and other entertainment, but that Crossroads cannot. He said they now have zero entertainment since receiving a letter from the town, adding that he has not even turned on a TV or radio in the restaurant since the matter of entertainment was previously discussed.
“All we want is a license like Jenny had where we can have a band come in,” Fuller said. “We have two weddings on the book now, we’ve got birthdays, and we’ve got the Alabama and Auburn game.”
Young asked why they were planning to hold such events at the restaurant if they knew they did not have a license that permitted those, and Fuller stated that they had been planned beforehand.
In further discussion, White stated that they have the same license Johnson had, with Fuller then asking if they could go back to having bands perform like Johnson did. However, White stated again that the license is for a restaurant that serves alcohol.
“No one told you that you couldn’t have a TV on or music,” White said.
During ongoing discussion, Councilmember Lee asked to confirm that the things Fuller mentioned fall under events, stating that the council would have to approve those.
Fuller said that he was asking for a 999 business license type, which per the town’s ordinance is for “business not elsewhere classified.”
Lee stated that Fuller could bring planned special events before the council ahead of time for approval, adding that it should not be that hard. He suggested that the town and Fuller do that, based on the current license, until the town puts an entertainment license in place.
Lee said the council cannot go back and change what was done in the past, but said that he is trying to help with moving forward., adding that some things slide through the cracks. He further stated that the town is “pushing the ordinances now more than back then.”
In further discussion, Lee asked if the town can just come up with an entertainment license, adding that he did not have a problem with any of the events Fuller had named.
Fuller said that he wants to go by and follow the rules, but that he cannot do the same things Johnson did when she owned and operated a restaurant, despite having the same kind of business license.
In ongoing discussion, Young stated, “The fact that Jenny may have violated that license is something that the prior administration did not address and should have.”
Fuller stated that it was the current administration, with Twenty-Two & Crew having opened in October 2021.
“Here’s my thing,” White said, “Every time you go over 55 and hit 56, do you get a ticket?”
Fuller said it depends on who the police is he thought.
“Exactly,” White said. “I might need to run down there and make sure they give you a ticket every time, because I’m done discussing this. There’s been enough discussion on the table.”
However, Councilmember Robert Smith mentioned in discussion that the word “shows” was too broad, stating that it is not defined.
“If the town is against a show that I plan, it would be canceled just like this one was,” Fuller said.
In further discussion, Councilmember Castleberry stated, “I think as the town grows and times change and we’re not in horse-and-buggy days anymore, like half of our ordinances said six months ago, I think there’s going to be things come up that are new to town that need to be worked on, and an entertainment license is clearly one of them.”
“We’ve never had this situation,” she added. “So I think we need to take a deep breath, step back, identify what an entertainment license would and would not include, and move forward.”
After discussion, the council unanimously approved tabling the matter for the town to write up something regarding establishing an entertainment license.
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Rockford Town Council will be held at 6 p.m. October 17.