By a vote of 3-2, the Fort Payne City Council voted to pass a resolution supporting statewide legislation impacting appointments to the board of directors of the Fort Payne Improvement Authority. Council President Walter Watson also announced that the city council will resume in-person meetings on April 6 at 12:30 p.m. at City Hall.
During the live-streamed meeting, Watson said the previous council looked at having the law revised so members could be appointed to the FPIA board, similar to how they have served on other utility boards. The resolution approved this week requests the local legislative delegation introduce a local act to amend sections of the Code of Alabama pertaining to improvement authorities.
Alabama House Majority Leader Dist. 24 State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, introduced such a bill, HB223, which passed the House of Representatives and has been referred to the Senate committee on governmental affairs. The bill would expand terms on the FPIA board to six years and limit board membership to no more than three city council members. It would prohibit a city official from serving on an additional utility board at the same time as the FPIA board.
Council members Phillip Smith and John Smith both voted against the resolution while Watson, Council President Pro Tem Lynn Brewer and Council member Johnny Eberhart voted in favor. Proponents of the change have argued that it would keep experience working for the city while eliminating barriers to cooperation with the city government to move joint projects more quickly and also avoid duplication of efforts. Opponents have stated a preference to opening up board appointments to more citizens.
The other resolution approved this week concerns applying for a $270,000 grant from the Alabama Recreational Trails Program for funding proposed improvements to a multi-use trail near the Carden Sports Complex. The city pledged $67,500 in in-kind match funding to support the activities.
Brewer said the project would link a trail system inside the proposed sports complex to DeSoto State Park and could eventually be extended to a trail system going through town. She recalled project meetings that had involved DeKalb tourism and economic development officials. Robin Brothers, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, has been tasked with coordinating various efforts and discussions about the new sports complex and athletic fields.
Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine said Kenneth Boswell, head of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs specifically encouraged the city to apply for the recreational trails grant.
In other business, the council also discussed plans for rental property at the Coal & Iron Building. Watson said Vicky Kirby, president of the Fort Payne/DeKalb County Entrepreneurial Center, had expressed some interest in using space inside the building and requested to meet the city council to make a presentation at its April 7 work session.
The facility had been targeted for a proposed brewpub, but those plans fell through when the owner suffered some health issues.
Council members expressed the sentiment that they wanted to keep the property under city control because of its historic importance and a desire to see it used for a purpose that would attract people to downtown. Baine said it is rented for events through at least January 2022.
The Coal & Iron Building was also discussed among a wide range of topics during a Wednesday evening work session. During that meeting, also live-streamed, they talked about a proposed airport hangar for storing four medical helicopters to be operated by DeKalb County, building a service modeled after what officials in Oxford have done.
During the work session, they also talked about the logistics of working with the county on the construction of a new tourism office, plans for a new sports complex, modernizing the police department building, the need to update the city’s website, the next city budget process, plans for leasing or repurposing the public golf course at DeSoto Country Club, the economic development and tourism impacts of proposed gaming legislation, extending decorative light poles northward from Fifth Avenue North and the need to schedule a meeting with local legislators and state highway department officials to make a final determination of costs and decide how to address the hazardous curve at Joe’s Truck Stop.