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Lanett may upgrade Hardy Gym

LANETT — Members of the Lanett City Council discussed a number of topics at a Thursday evening work session including an immediate need for some improvements at the James A. Hardy Gym, an opportunity to get some new city buses and offering a monetary incentive for city employees who have yet to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to get their shots.

Action could be taken on these items at Monday’s regular council meeting.

Recreation Director Trent McCants talked about what’s needed at the gym. There’s a possibility, he said, that this year’s Lanett High basketball games could be moved to the Hardy Gym in the L.B. Sykes complex off Cherry Drive. The locker room area next to the LHS gym was destroyed by fire earlier this year. If any work is going on there during basketball season, the games have to be moved to an alternate site. McCants said the Hardy gym would need new seating areas and restroom improvements to be an appropriate site. There’s a possibility the Panthers may have to play all their games on the road this year.

Utilities Superintendent Tony Chandler said the city could probably take care of the restroom needs and that there’s still time to do something about the gym seating if the council acts in the near future.

The gym’s existing pull-out bleachers are not in good condition.

“They are splitting in some places and not steady when you walk up and down on them,” McCants said.

“This is something that’s long overdue,” Council Member Tony Malone said.

“We need to have it taken care of before Lanett High plays their games there,” Council Member Angelia Thomas said.

City Attorney Stanley Gray advised council members to decide on the scope of work before taking action.

“Are we looking at improvements or a larger project?” he asked. “We need to make sure we can do this first.”

“Maybe we should first do what Trent is asking,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jamie Heard. “The bleachers will probably be the biggest holdup.”

The council also discussed getting two new buses for the senior center. Chief Johnny Allen of Lanett Fire & EMS has been looking into it and has located buses that could be suitable. They are available through a company in north Alabama.

“They don’t have shields but could be added later,” Allen said.

The shields are between the driver and the passengers and offer some protection from COVID.

“Lots of people in the local area can fabricate this for us,” Allen said, making the point that shields could later be installed.

The city has some federal American Rescue Plan funds that must be spent by Oct. 31, or the money will be going back to Washington.

“We don’t need to let that happen,” Thomas said. “We need to spend it on something we need.”

City Attorney Gray said he needed a list of such items so he could research if the money could be spent on it.

“We don’t need for the money to go back,” Thomas said.

City Clerk Deborah Gilbert said she had talked to a local heating and air company and had been told they could install equipment at all city-owned buildings that kill viruses. “It costs $685 for private homes and more for commercial buildings,” she said.

Council members had an extensive discussion of offering a monetary incentive to city employees who get their Covid shots. A resolution that will be on Monday’s agenda would offer $500 for full-time employees and $250 for part-time employees. It’s for those employees who have yet to be vaccinated but do so before Nov. 30.

The city has a total of 123 employees at the current time.

“This is not a mandate,” Gray said. “It’s an incentive to encourage employees to get vaccinated.”

The money would be coming from the American Rescue Plan funds the city has received.

An hour before Monday’s regular council session starts at 6 p.m., council members will be meeting with Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood civil engineers Ryan Pearce and Jordan Russell to discuss an application for funding for the Lanett airport. It’s an annual procedure that needs to be done to be eligible for funding from the FAA and the Alabama Department of Transportation.

“We need to send this in in October so we can apply for funds later,” Chandler said.

The council on Monday will also be looking at two grant requests for the Lanett Police Department. One is a $24,000 grant for equipment through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). The other grant is through the USDA’s Rural Development Program and will enable the replacement of police vehicles.