At this week’s Fort Payne City Council meeting, members voted to purchase new pipes to alleviate flooding, addressed a reduction in the City’s fire safety rating and initiated a “fleet” program that is expected to make money while equipping city employees with new vehicles every year.
Public Works Director Tim Williams said $242,000 in new, larger pipes are ordered, along with a excavator to install it in four sections of the city that have flooded in recent years, including the “bottleneck” on Airport Road and Highway 35 where a woman drown earlier this year.
“I’m about 99% sure we won’t have those issues after we put this pipe in,” Williams said. “It will take us about two years to get all of these locations installed, but we’ll get started as soon as the pipe comes in.”
Williams said it was urgent to order the piping due to escalating costs. “Catch spaces” will be added to divert the rocks and debris that wash down off the ridges during heavy rains. This, along with the larger-sized pipe, should prevent these materials from lodging inside the lines.
“Right now, we’ve got so many turns [in the drainage piping] that the rocks get in and stop up the whole pipe. The ones we are about to put in will be a straight shot to the creek. It should be a hundred times better than it has been,” he added.
Public Works has also gotten permission from landowners to clear out any obstructions in Wills Creek in the area of Walmart Supercenter and DeKalb Regional Medical Center as soon as the rain stops. Williams said they plan to straighten and widen the creek behind the WZOB radio station so it can hold more water that accumulates during flash flooding.
Another department head, Fire Chief Ron Saferite, spoke about procedures he is changing to address the recent downgrading of Fort Payne’s rating from 3 to 4 by the Insurance Services Office (ISO), which independently audits fire departments to score their readiness to protect the community. The ISO assigns a Public Protection Classification (PPC) on a scale from 1 to 10. The higher the ISO fire protection class (with Class 1 being the best), the lower local insurance premiums typically follow for residential and commercial policyholders.
“Several years ago, when I moved inside the city limits, my homeowner’s insurance dropped from $1,200 to $600 a year,” Saferite presented as an example. “When industries look at locating in an area, one of their first questions is what your ISO rating is, so this could give us a better chance of attracting new jobs to our community. It can save some of these companies millions of dollars over several years.”
He said they are working toward improving the rating to 2 by next year.
Money is also the impetus for the City to launch a “fleet program” like the one DeKalb County has run for years, essentially trading vehicles each year to take advantage of production delays in the auto industry and reduced inventory on car lots that have raised used car prices. After an initial investment of $1.4 million, the City expects to start making money by the sixth year of the program, according to Council member Phillip Smith.
“In the simplest terms, the moment you drive a new car off a dealership parking lot, the price drops. We are able to buy those vehicles, brand new, at the price it would be when you roll it off the lot. Later, we’ll be able to sell that vehicle with minimal miles on it for more money than we paid for it. It will be a morale booster to have a brand new vehicle each year. I know it sounds too good to be true, but the county’s been doing it for 20 years,” Smith said.
Council President Walter Watson said that when citizens see employees driving around in new cars, they need to remember that the City can buy those new vehicles for a lot cheaper than he could as a private citizen.
“What our police department does is really important and we need to show our appreciation as much as we can. With something that brings a return on investment… That’s a no brainer and we should help those guys,” Watson said.
In other business, the Council:
• rescinded a motion from the March 16 meeting to donate land adjacent to the old Jefferson’s location to the DeKalb County Commission for building a new tourism office. The County, however, has since bought property on Highway 11 North for that purpose. No paperwork or survey was done to officially transfer the property to the County.
• held a public hearing to receive comments about the proposed participation in a tax sharing agreement with Roy H. Drinkard for the Harbor Freight location, which resulted in no opposition.
• approved alcohol licenses for Blue Jug and DeSoto Golf Course to offer On-Off Premise Beer and Wine and for Osaka Sushi Steakhouse to sell liquor.
• approved a budget adjustment for the fire department to replace damaged parts in Ford vehicles contaminated by the use of “off road fuel” that will void the 12 month warranty if used again.
• approved activity permits for Spencer DeVries on behalf of The Well, which will offer free coffee for everyone at the Alabama Walking Park on August 28th at 9:00 a.m.; for Sunshine Ministries and Frosty’s 5k run for animal adoption on Saturday, September 11th, in the City Park, from 8:00-10:00 a.m.; and the VFW for a 5k Run on Williams Avenue from the VFW to the Alabama Walking Park on Saturday, November 6th, beginning at 8:00 a.m. Christopher Bowing of Rockbridge Holiness Church applied to host a Holiness Revival at the Rotary Pavilion, August 23-27, but the Council was wary of permitting anyone to use City properties for a full week.