LaFayette approves for work to start with Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative program

Published 11:00 am Friday, January 28, 2022

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At the LaFayette City Council meeting on Monday, the council approved for work to start for the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative program.

The program, which is designed to help communities address issues caused by COVID-19, had been explained by Dr. Arturo Menefee, director of leadership development for the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, at a previous meeting.

Funding partners for the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative are the Centers for Disease Control and the Alabama Department of Public Health. The project in LaFayette would involve a coordinator leading the effort, and an advisory group would assist the coordinator.

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Menefee had said the initiative requires funds to develop a healing zone, which is a natural outdoor space which some might consider a park. He had said the initiative could enhance a park that already exists or create a new space. Additionally, he had there would be no costs to the city for the project.

In other business, the council voted to approve letting City Clerk Louis Davidson request bids for new utility billing and accounting software.

“With regards to our utility billing, it was basically a one-man shop,” Davidson said. “He kind of developed the program himself. He was support, himself, and he passed away. So as of right now, we don’t have any support, we’ve run into a couple of issues but nothing that we can’t get past. But the reality is if something big happened, we’d be in more trouble.”

Councilmember Ellis asked if money from the American Rescue Plan Act could be used for the software. Davidson said it was possible.

Later on, Councilmember Terry Mangram voiced his opinion that city workers need to be held accountable.

“We need to be looking as the mayor and council that everything’s being … trying to be handled in a timely manner,” he said. “We just had two major water leaks … The timing, the effort to go out there and look for these leaks … We’ve got to make sure that people are doing what they need to do. We can get overtime if we want overtime. When it’s time to really work overtime, we choose to do it later because it’s not convenient at that time for us. So, it’s just a matter of people being held accountable for all of the jobs that’s out there.”

Mangram said one of the biggest issues the city has been dealing with is water.

“And, if you know we’ve got a water break, it’s all hands on deck, and nobody needs to go home until it’s fixed,” he said. “Everybody needs to be here. Nobody should be unreachable. The first water leak, Ms. Gleaton couldn’t get nobody.”

Mangram said that the city soon ran out of water after the leak, which he said was ridiculous.

“In reference to the water leaks, one of the things is that we, the council, have not taken action to maintain our water system, water distribution system,” Councilmember T. Shannon Hunter said. “And we’ve got an opportunity now with ARPA funds to do that. And I think we need to do that.”

“We’ve done a lot to maintain the system,” Mangram said. “You’re going to always have situations. My thing is when you have that situation, just like I said a minute ago, all hands on deck.”

Hunter said major issues with the water system shouldn’t happen so often.

“We’ve replaced a lot of water lines around here,” Mangram said. “My eyesight is that if they dig on this end of town, within the next two weeks, there’s going to be a leak up the road somewhere. If you don’t believe it, just watch.”

In other business, Councilmember Tammie Williams asked if there was a mandate for City of LaFayette employees to wear masks while they were on the clock.

Davidson said the mayor and council had brought up at a previous council meeting that city employees need to wear masks. Williams said she’d like to put her proposal in the form of a motion so it would be on record.

Mangram asked if one person in a vehicle would have to wear a mask. Williams said she thought it was fine for such a person to not wear a mask, but multiple people in a vehicle should be masked. Mangram also asked about someone standing outside by himself or herself. Williams said the city should follow CDC guidelines.

The council voted to approve the mandate.

Williams also brought up the issue of garbage being picked up in a sloppy manner or not being picked up at all by Waste Management.

“We’ve been discussing and discussing, but at some point, we need to do something,” she said.

“Every week, Diane is emailed about somebody’s trash didn’t get picked up, a cart got torn up, the cart is in the road… it’s something.”

Mangram said he’d seen trash cans in locations that might make it difficult for Waste Management to pick them up.

“And, you know, for us being city leaders, we’re going to try to help eliminate some of these issues,” he said. “Maybe we need to get with Waste Management and have them come to town and see what a best placement of these cans are.”

Mangram said the garbage trucks place cans back where they picked them up, but Williams said that wasn’t necessarily true.

Williams also brought up Mental Health Awareness Month being in May and National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month being in September.

She said the city ought to do something to recognize Sergeant Jacob Williams and Officer Devonte Allen of the LaFayette Police Department, who she said had talked someone out of suicide.

She publicly thanked LaFayette Police Chief George Rampey, who was present at the meeting, for his good work.