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Lanett council discusses reopening senior center

LANETT — The Lanett City Council discussed a broad range of topics at a Monday evening work session at city hall. Much of what was discussed will be action items on the agenda for next Monday’s regular meeting. Those items include the possible reopening of the Lanett Senior Center and the Jane Farrar Event Center, hiring a recreation director, creating a Historic District Committee and having a job description for a city administrator.

The city has been notified by the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission that indoor activities could resume at senior centers in its 10-county region on Monday, April 19.

“We are hoping to reopen it at that time,” said Council Member Tony Malone. “There are lots of guidelines we will have to follow to do it. We also hope to reopen the event center, but we will have to have a maximum occupancy number.”

Fire & EMS Chief Johnny Allen said he’d like to limit the number to 20 people inside the event center at any point in time. There could be gatherings with more people, provided that some were outside under the pavilion. A $200 deposit is required to rent the event center. A total of $100 of that will be refunded, provided the group that rented the building cleans up afterward.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event center hosted events such as birthday parties, family reunions and wedding receptions.

The city has been considering hiring a recreation director for some time.

“We could promote from within or hire a new person,” Malone said. “The position needs to be advertised. We need to have a post-COVID strategy with recreation.”

The council will likely approve the city’s participation in the annual Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday the weekend of July 16-18. Participating local governments have to notify the Alabama Department of Revenue by June 16.

The council will also be acting on a Municipal Water Pollution Prevention policy that must be submitted to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) by May 31.

Malone said he had thought for some time that the city needed a Historic Districts Committee. This could recognize, for example, neighborhoods such as Old Bluffton, Lanett Mill Village, West Shawmut, Jackson Heights, Victory Heights, Heyman Pines and so on.

Police Chief Johnny Wood talked to the council about having a dark fiber connection between the police department at city hall and the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in the L.B. Sykes complex.

“There are problems now when we try to transfer large files such as photos and videos,” he said.

It would cost $1,000 to install and $500 a month to maintain.

“We would like to have it at a lower charge,” he said.

Council Member Jamie Heard thanked the city’s street department on having done lots of work in his district.

“You can tell the difference,” he said. “I appreciate everything they have done. Some streets have been paved, too. One of those streets hadn’t been paved in 38 years.”

The city is looking to have internet service at the event center at a cost of around $85 a month. The event center is one of few city-owned buildings that currently does not have internet. The Scout House and the old gym are the other city buildings without it.

McCoy informed the council that the Alabama League of Municipalities is looking at shifting city elections away from presidential election years. If approved, the elections for most Alabama cities would take place in June 2025 rather than August 2024. Basically, the current incumbents would have their term in office lengthened by almost a full year.

A bill backed by the League of Municipalities is currently in the state senate. It would apply to all cities in the state except for Auburn, Bessemer, Dothan, Gadsden, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Mountain Brook, Scottsboro, Talladega and Tuscaloosa.

Thomas said she’d like for the city to participate in Alabama Lineman Appreciation Day, which takes place on June 7. National Lineman Appreciation Day takes place on April 18.

These dates recognize the contributions made to the local community by electrical department workers.

Wood told the council that a carnival will be coming to Lanett the week of April 27 through May 2. It will be on the former Lanett Mill parking lots next to El Rio Mexican Restaurant.

“Their employees will be wearing masks,” he said. “It’s not required of the public to do so, but we are encouraging it.”

Wood said he was pleased the police department had recently gotten a very good review of its loss control record. This reduces insurance premiums.

“It’s something we are proud of,” he said.

Chief Allen said he was looking at getting weather radios for Lanett seniors who need them.

“It’s really important to have one of these, given the kind of weather we have in this part of the country,” he said. “The local EMA will help us with this. We will program the radios for them, and they can come by and pick them up. Having a weather radio can definitely save lives.”

The city’s wastewater contractor, Clearwater, had a representative at the work session. Jeff Astin told council members that morale was high at the wastewater plant.

“Production is good,” he said. “We are getting more employees certified. Having people certified helps them, and lets people in the city know that the job is being done right.”

Clearwater has been the city’s provider since August. They have made some needed improvements to the system since that time. Any group that would like to tour the plant is welcome to.

“We will gladly show people what’s going on,” Astin said.