Lanett council discusses new riverside park, airport

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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LANETT — The City of Lanett is taking steps toward the development of a city park near the Chattahoochee River. At Monday’s council meeting, a resolution was approved to authorize Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood to come up with a conceptual plan for such a park. The Montgomery engineering firm would produce such a plan on its current contract with the city.

“This will be the start of a plan to have a river walk on the part of Lanett that’s near the river,” Council Member Tony Malone said.

It’s possible for such a trail to join one that heads south along the west bank of the river from West Point. Such a trail could eventually connect three cities, starting in West Point river park and ending at the old Shawmut airport in Valley. The trail would connect two states, three cities, three counties (Troup, Harris and Chambers) and two time zones.

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The design work is expected to cost around $8,000.

In another action, the city rescinded a contract previously awarded to Sara Byard Consulting. This was done at her request due to other obligations. Byard had been hired for a grant consulting service connected to a natural gas distribution grant the city had received last year. The contract period was expected to last between three and 12 months at 10 to 20 hours per month. This work would be done on and off-site at a rate of $100 an hour.

The city will be replacing Byard with Alagrants LLC (d.b.a. Simple Grants) which will do the work for $185 per hour.

Council Member Malone said it was his understanding that the East Alabama Regional Planning & Development Agency does some grant work at no cost to its member cities and counties. (Lanett is in this 10-county region, headquartered in Anniston). “They do not charge for grant writing,” he said. “We need to look at using them more.”

The city renewed a line of credit of up to $300,000 with Renasant Bank. This is something the council has done every year for a number of years. “We haven’t used it in years,” said City Clerk/Treasurer Deborah Gilbert. “It’s there if we ever need it.”

Another resolution that was approved authorizes Water Superintendent Richard Chapman to sell or dispose of some surplus property within his department. These are items that are out of service and beyond maintenance. Chapman is retired from the City of LaFayette and has been with Lanett since the first of the year. The city’s wastewater contractor, Clearwater, ran the city’s water department last year.

In a work session that preceded the 6 p.m. council meeting, Mayor Jamie Heard and members of the council discussed hiring a new airport manager to succeed Richard Carter, who resigned from the position in December to take a job with the Clayton County, Georgia Police Department. Carter is staying on in a part-time role until someone else is hired.

Mayor Heard said that four people had applied for the vacant position and that two of them would be interviewed this week.

The mayor was asked if anyone was checking fuel at the airport on a daily basis. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires this. Heard said that Carter was doing this for now.

He was also asked if someone has to be certified to do this. Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) Executive Director Chris Busby, who was present at the work session, said he had checked on this and had been told that the person doing it didn’t have to be certified but that it’s recommended to be done by someone who is. “It’s not overly complicated to be certified in this,” Busby said. “They have training sessions on this throughout the year.”

Council Member Ronnie Tucker suggested having some cross-training with employees from other city departments. “Someone who works in the Water and Gas Department is used to taking readings,” he said. Fire & EMS Chief Johnny Allen said that employees in his department could be trained to do this if someone who normally did it was on vacation or away from work for another reason.

Malone said there were other details in running an airport the city needs to be aware of. “We need to make sure someone who’s running a flight school has the certification to do that,” he said.

“We need to have an airport manager,” Council Member Angelia Thomas said. “We need to have someone out there taking care of things on a daily basis. We need to have someone who’s the right fit for the job, and the sooner the better. We don’t need to do any foot-dragging on this. We could do something different, like having an airport authority, later on, but for now, we need to have an airport manager. We need to fill the position vacated by Richard Carter. By mid-March, we need to have someone running the airport as a city department. We’d like for that person to make reports to the city council the same way other department heads do.”

Electrical and Gas Superintendent Allen Summers told the council that things had been going well in the change out of old water meters to the newer, much more accurate digital radio read meters.. An old meter can be replaced by a new one in less than one minute in most situations.

Summers said he expected work to start in April on a major upgrade in the city’s natural gas system. “Ww should be putting cast iron pipes in the ground by then,” he said.

Lanett was among several Alabama cities approved for a grant to do this last year.

The city’s Electrical Department is benefitting from some new transformers that have gone into the department’s main substation in Plant City.”We are in better shape right now than we were this time last year,” Summers said.

Cemetery & Grounds department head Bo Lauderdale told the council that the city’s two brush trucks are in service right now and that crews had been doing a lot of work on the major routes through town in anticipation of the grass-cutting season. “We have doing trimming work along the sidewalks and curbs,” he said. Lauderdale added that 12 lots had recently been sold at the Pine Hill Cemetery in West Shawmut. A major facelift has taken there recently. “It’s coming along really well,” Lauderdale said. “Twelve spaces have been bought there.”

Street Department head Rocky Bolt told the council that his department had recently been doing work on North 3rd and North 4th Streets. They have also been doing work on North 18th Street. This work involved replacing a storm drain and a nearby sidewalk, possibly due to big trucks being on the street.

Sidewalk repair or replacement, Bolt said, is often necessary due to the sidewalk being damaged by people parking there when they are not supposed to or from the roots of large trees breaking up the sidewalk from underneath.

Chapman told the council that there are a lot of aging water and sewer lines in the city that need to be replaced. “It’s a challenge to do this,” he said, “but we will do what we can to address this.”

Recreation Director Trent McCants said that Lanett will have several youth basketball teams in a district tournament this weekend in Alexander City and that girls volleyball will be offered by the department next year. He’s also working on having pickleball, something that’s popular with older people.

Captain Patrick McCullough of the Lanett Police Department said that arrests had been made in murders that have taken place in the last year and officers were still working on solving some recent shootings. “Evidence has been submitted and we are working on some leads,” he said.

Council Member Malone asked him what happens when an undocumented immigrant commits a crime in the city. “Does ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) pick them up and deport them?” he asked.

McCullough said that most incidents in the Lanett jurisdiction that involve undocumented immigrants are minor offenses such as driving under the influence (DUI) and other lesser things. “ICE gets involved when it’s a more serious crime such as a felony,” he said. “Those who commit felonies do time before they are deported.”

McCullough added that it’s more difficult to process someone whose only identification may be a driver’s license from a Central American country. There’s also a problem when people don’t have Social Security numbers.

Thus far in 2024, Lanett officers have made 15 felony arrests and 93 misdemeanor arrests. They have also issued 63 citations.