City still planning to donate school supplies

With 80% of city students planning to return to school next month, the Fort Payne City Council is still planning to donate money to the Fort Payne Board of Education for purchasing school supplies and for teachers to add resources. About 650 students are opting to attend via the internet.

Council President Brian Baine announced that at its next meeting, the city will again present the school system with a $200,000 check. The funds are intended to insure that parents and students will not start school without the supplies they need.

“We’re going to present those checks at the [Aug. 4] meeting, but we wanted to go ahead and say something since people are starting to purchase supplies for the start of the new school year,” Baine said.

Last year, the supplies were pre-sorted for each student and were disbursed to the classroom teachers, allowing parents to relax and focus on starting the school year. Unfortunately, there’s already an element of added stress with COVID-19 impacting operations on campuses.

Students will be welcomed back to campus on August 12. Families who have reliable access to the internet were instructed to enroll by July 17 if they would elect to keep their child at home to learn virtually.

In other business, the council:

• discussed converting city employees’ retirement plans from Tier II employees to Tier I. Both are managed by Retirement Systems of Alabama with differences in the amounts of employee contributions and time served. City Human Resources Manager Don Fischer recommended going ahead with the equalization, which will cost the city $60,000 initially and possibly more in the future.

“We don’t know if the cost will increase next year,” he said. The benefit of making the change is improving employee retention, especially with surrounding agencies on the same retirement system making the change. Failing to act could create a recruiting issue in the future. About 43 percent of the city workforce is Tier II, Fischer said.

Council President Pro Tem and Council member Johnny Eberhart supported the action, saying that the promise of a good retirement as a reward for years of dedication and hard work is a good investment for the taxpayers. Council member Gerald “Red” Taylor made a motion to accept Fischer’s recommendation, seconded by Hill. City Attorney Rocky Watson will review the plan and the council can proceed by approving the minutes of the next meeting.

• approved the purchase of a Skyjack forklift from the Fort Payne Water Department for $20,000 that would be valued at $74,000 if bought new. The forklift can be loaned between city departments for a variety of tasks. Presently, it is being used to construct a new practice fire tower, Hill said. Eberhart made the motion, seconded by Council member Lynn Brewer.

• approved the lowest qualified bid of $187,387 for a sewer “Jetter” truck from Sewer Duck, which was more affordable than the $260,000 the city initially estimated.

• approved the low bid for traffic signals at the 49th Street North intersection to Stone & Sons Electrical for $116,170 to accommodate traffic flowing to the new intermediate school when it opens.

• named Ladd Environmental as the city’s engineer of record when applying for grant monies to pay for demolishing the old hospital.

• granted tax abatements to project KM and project KM-PR for a new industry on Airport Road expected to generate 43 jobs. The abatements are routinely used by the DeKalb County Economic Development Authority as a tax reduction incentive to make the city a more enticing place for companies to operate or expand. City Clerk Andy Parker said he believes the company makes windows.

• approved an activity permit for First United Methodist Church to offer outdoor services in the City Park on August 2, 9, 16 and 23 from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. The church also put down a deposit on the Rotary Pavilion in the event it rains on those days.

• Mayor Larry Chesser commended Public Works Director Tim Williams and city employees for an “excellent job” on paving city streets. He also recognized Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor Michael Evett for his job performance.

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