Newly-elected New Albany city officials eased into their four-year term with a low-key aldermen’s meeting Tuesday.
Mayor Tim Kent, Chief of Police Chris Robertson, Ward One Alderman Parks Smith, Ward Two Alderman Drew Horn, Ward Four Alderman Will Tucker and Alderman-at-Large Keith Conlee were given the oath of office by municipal judge Regan Russell.
Ward Three Alderman Kevin Dale White was unable to be present and will be sworn in at a later date.
This was a first for Smith and Horn while the other officials are incumbents.
Among other business, Mayor Tim Kent reported that the long-awaited resurfacing of Moss Hill Drive is complete, except for some side striping.
He proposed that the next street project be Carter Avenue since it is the main entrance to downtown from I-22 and is experiencing buckling and other damage.
Kent said he had an estimate of $1.6 million to do the repairs. The problem is partly that the concrete beneath the asphalt is buckling due to temperature changes and to repair the street would mean cutting sections of the concrete out and replacing it with an expandable filler.
Adding to the problem is that there is six inches of asphalt on top of the street, which comprises five inches of the old concrete.
Kent said one way to cut cost would be to repair sections of the street over time.
After paying for Moss Hill Drive, the city has about $1.7 million in the street maintenance fund, Municipal Clerk Frankie Roberts said.
Aldermen asked about which streets might be repaired next. One possibility was to try to evenly distribute work among the wards. The other was to use the engineering study done a couple of years ago and repair streets according to the greatest need, regardless of which ward they are in.
Kent said the city has the equipment to do milling of small street areas, but would still run into the problem of finding a contractor willing to undertake relatively small jobs.
Another option is to use the cape seal process to repair some streets with less excessive damage. This process using a chip seal covered with a smooth slurry top, but cape sealing is only available from a company in this area about once a year. That will be in the fall.
The board took no action on the matter.
In personal appearances, Adrian Ivy had been scheduled to appear before the board to talk about establishing a semi-pro adult football league. He was unable to be there because of a conflict but will attend a future meeting.
In department business, New Albany Light, Gas and Water Manager Bill Mattox again got permission to pay bills on construction of the new wastewater treatment plant scheduled to go into service later this summer. A $111, 711.21 payment went to KAJACS Construction while $10,191 went to ESI engineers.
The approximately $15 million project will replace the old current plant and is being paid for through a USDA grant and loan to be paid back through user fees.
Mattox also received permission to pay Looks Great Services $201,357 and $211,249 for right-of-way clearing.
Aldermen gave him permission to purchase a half-ton truck at state contract price to go along with three others in the process of being purchased.
Finally, Mattox gave an update on a program approved earlier this year in an effort to save money on natural gas costs.
By prepaying for the gas, the department will get a discount depending on market conditions. It took some time to get the agreement in place but Mattox said as of this week the city department is getting a discount of 30 cents for each thousand cubic feet – a 30-percent discount. Price changes are passed on to customers.
In community development, deputy director Tracy Vainisi gave an update of plans to improve the Alabama Street park. New playground equipment is ready to be ordered and the existing equipment will be rehabilitated and modified for use by younger children and handicapped users. She also provided information about a possible splash pad for the park.
The improvements are being paid for with a $15,000 Kaboom grant, a $10,000 match from the city and private donations, which Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud said will be adequately covered.
Interim park director Chase Jeter gave an update on the extensive list of activities going on at the sportsplex.
Fire Chief Mark Whiteside received permission to fill a vacancy by hiring Heath Brown. Whiteside said Brown is the last remaining candidate in the hiring pool, so he needs to advertise for candidates for a new pool.
The purpose of the pool is to pre-qualify candidates to learn if they can pass the same physical test they would face at the fire academy. Before the pool was established, the department sometimes employed firefighters for some time only to eventually learn they could not pass academy requirements. The pool solves that problem.
Whiteside gave aldermen an update on the recent state fire chiefs association, in which New Albany and Union County are well-represented.
Whiteside said the retired chief Steve Coker was nominated for and named to lifetime membership and given the status of a respected elder member. Coker also serves as vice-president of the association board representing the northeast region.
Building inspector and zoning administrator Eric Thomas reported that the planning and zoning board had approved requests for variance to the city code requirement for siding. The two businesses are Custom Nonwoven at 1015 Munsford Drive and El Agave at 105 Gap Drive.
The zoning board also approved changing the zoning for Looxahoma LLC at 890 Sam T. Barkley Drive from R-2 residential to C-2 commercial. The change will require a public hearing to be finally approved and that hearing will take place during the August city board meeting.
In other general business, aldermen reappointed Billye Jean Stroud to represent New Albany on the GM&O Rails to Trails Board of Directors.
Aldermen also rehired all city employees for the four-year term and reappointed all department managers.
Before adjourning, the board went into executive session to discuss possible litigation but no formal vote was reported. Part of the discussion apparently related to the city’s plan to replace all streetlights because of some funding technicality.
The next scheduled board meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3, although a called meeting may be needed to discuss the plan to renovate the former Fred’s building or some other matter.
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