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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
Last Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Rockford Town Council consisted largely of discussion regarding road projects and safety, with only two other non-standard agenda items receiving action.
During the meeting Mayor Scott White mentioned School Street being next on the list of projects to be done as the weather allows. He stated that Gary Ingram Grading and Paving would be in town to pave the road soon and that it will be asphalted.
While discussing that, he mentioned that U.S. Highway 231 will later be going to a “road diet” and that the state will be making some changes, as previously reported.
White said that the council has talked before about complaints from people pulling out of School Street going northbound and being unable to see going northbound. It was mentioned that Police Chief George Fanning has worked a few “fender benders” at that intersection over the last couple of months.
With the road diet White mentioned the state adding four parking places in an area of Highway 231, stating that it would be adding a potential hazard with the additional parking places. As such, he mentioned the possibility of making School Street a one-way street westbound.
He added that the town could then also add in parking spaces along the one-way street and increase to “six or seven parking spaces,” stopping before getting to Robert Smith’s mailbox along the street. White further said that the town will be gaining four parking places in front of the private lot along Highway 231 and 10 along the street, saying they would be looking at gaining 20-25 parking spaces in total.
He said that he was willing to discuss making it a one-way street, stating, “Everybody won’t be happy with it, because it’s change, but it’s something we definitely need to look at.”
In discussion, Fanning mentioned the risk of low visibility when pulling out from School Street onto Highway 231.
“It’s going to make some locals mad if you do do it, but from a safety standpoint I think it’s your best option,” he stated.
When town attorney Tom Young mentioned being curious why it would make people mad, Fanning explained, “It’s just change. We’re creatures of habit, even myself.”
After further discussion, White proposed getting a quote on having the parking spaces put in, striping done and other work to “get it all done at one time.”
He said they would have parking spaces clearly marked. He added that the town would still leave the right, or north, side of the street open for the parking lot behind the newspaper office, as well as leave “the alleyway” accessible behind the buildings.
During discussion, Young said that he did not see a problem with the town making it a one-way street.
After discussion, the council unanimously approved making School Street a one-way street after the paving project is done.
Regarding the paving of School Street that was mentioned at the meeting as coming up soon, that stems from a bid reviewed and approved at the council’s August meeting to utilize Rebuild Alabama funds for paving projects in town.
During the August meeting the council reviewed its only sealed bid received from Gary Ingram Grading and Paving for the Rebuild Alabama paving projects, with the grant funds covering the cost of the paving projects.
The total bid was for $224,710 and included paving Jackson Street from Nixburg Road to School Street and Jackson Street from School Street to Alabama Highway 22, as well as School Street from Jackson Street to the utility cut/joint.
Earlier this week the town stated that those paving projects would begin today; however, work actually began yesterday. Drivers are encouraged to be cautious while driving the area to be mindful of the repaving being done.
In other business, White presented council members with copies of the town’s audit, saying that “everything looked good.” When he asked Town Clerk Lesle Nelson if she had anything to mention, she stated that everything “was excellent” according to Henry Dunlap, certified public accountant.
With no further discussion, the council unanimously approved accepting the town audit.
In other business, White mentioned replacing a heater in the Event Center, stating that out of four heaters in the building only one works.
He proposed that the town purchase another 150,000 BTU heating unit to replace one in the ceiling, with the estimated cost being $1,489.60. He said that would give the Event Center two working heaters, which he thought would be sufficient for heating the facility.
Following discussion the council unanimously approved the purchase of a heating unit up to $3,000, to include any installation fees.
Also during the meeting Young provided the council with updates, stating that they had notified property owners regarding awnings, as previously discussed when reviewing issues with awnings and the town’s sidewalk ordinance. He stated at that time that to his knowledge they had not yet heard back from any of the property owners who had received letters.
He mentioned needing a “nod from the council” to take more of a direct approach with the owners to make it clear that they need to let the town know “one way or another” regarding their intentions and whether they will sign the indemnification clause as previously reported.
“I can’t imagine why anybody would, if they want to keep it, why they would object to signing an indemnification,” Young stated. “That’s ridiculous; it doesn’t cost them anything. It’s no different than liability, frankly, that they’ve got now.”
He added that with approval of the town, he would write and send letters to property owners more specifically stating that the town needs “some kind of answer” regarding signing the indemnification or taking down the awnings in question. While no official action was needed or taken, White and the council voiced that they were OK with him proceeding.
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Rockford Town Council will be held at 6 p.m. February 20.