Alexander City sewer

Jeremy Walker of the Alexander City sewer system looks at a closed-circuit TV image of a clay sewer pipe on Myrtle Street. The city will pay $69,500 for Gulf Coast Underground to perform the annual sewer cleaning.

The Alexander City City Council unanimously approved a pair of large infrastructure projects Monday night but disagreement flared over streamlining the organizational chart to reduce the number of people reporting directly to the mayor and adding more money for a position in the public works department.

The council voted 3-2 to increase the pay grade for the GIS (geographic information system) coordinator in order to attract and keep qualified candidates. The GIS coordinator gathers, manages and analyzes a multitude of data and organizes it in map form — for example, the location of gas and water lines.

The decision increased the salary $4,100, including benefits, for the rest of the fiscal year and $8,200 annually thereafter. The current salary is $32,000, according to public works director Gerard Brewer.

“We’ve had five people (serve as GIS coordinator) since 2008,” city human resources director Kathy Railey told the council. “They usually end up leaving because of money. About $45,000 to $55,000 is the market (for the position). We’re well under the state average.”

But councilmember Bobby Tapley took exception to the move, saying hiring more police officers and firefighters should be a priority.

“I think it’s a slap in the face to our men and women in the police department and fire department,” Tapley said. “The police department has six vacancies and the fire department four. We have people leaving those departments for higher-paying jobs. You’re talking about public safety. I won’t support any raises until they get taken care of.”

Tapley and councilmember Buffy Colvin voted against the raise; councilmembers Scott Hardy, Eric Brown and Tim Funderburk approved it.

The council also voted 3-2 along identical lines to approve a change in the city’s organizational chart begun by late mayor Jim Nabors, who devised a plan to reduce the number of managers and employees directly reporting to him from 24 to 14 and raised the possibility of creating a utilities director.

“There would be no change to the pay, budget or titles,” Railey said. “Mayor Nabors began this a number of months ago to consolidate and reduce the number of direct reports he had to have to provide better communication and more accountability. He had 24 direct reports, which was a lot. Experts tell us 10 to 12 max is best so our mayor can focus on more pressing issues.”

Colvin and Tapley criticized the plan for excluding citizen input.

“It’s sad to see that you don’t see anything about citizens,” Colvin said. “We get away from that sometimes. They should be part of this.”

Tapley said he feared the consolidation could overload managers and said the city could not afford to create a utilities director position.

The council voted 5-0 to award a $413,568 bid to Triple J Construction of Phenix City for streetscape and sidewalk improvements in the Hamp Lyon Stadium area and also authorized Mayor Tommy Spraggins to sign an agreement for construction engineering and inspection with EEFS Company of Bessemer for the project.

The engineering agreement will not exceed $55,980 and the city’s match on the project will not exceed $76,000. The city was awarded Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grant money from the Alabama Department of Transportation in 2017 for the project.

Community development coordinator Al Jones said the city’s $76,000 contribution was originally budgeted in fiscal year 2018 but was not included in the 2019 budget, which the council voted to amend. A $12,000 match for EEFS remained budgeted in 2019.

“The sidewalks will go all the way up to a canopy at (Alexander City Middle School),” Jones said.

Tapley said the project would be welcomed by students and parents.

“This is much needed,” he said. “I got a complaint about kids walking in mud.”

The council voted 5-0 to award a $69,500 bid to Gulf Coast Underground of Mobile to perform the city’s annual sewer cleaning project. The only other bid was $235,000.

In other action at the meeting, the council:

• Voted 5-0 to authorize city finance director Sandy Stanbrough to open bank accounts she deems expedient at the Alexander City branches of Valley Bank, BB&T, Regions, Wells Fargo and River Bank & Trust and to withdraw funds and sign checks connected to those accounts. It also authorized Spraggins and city clerk Amanda Thomas to sign checks on any of those accounts in Stanbrough’s absence. 

• Voted 5-0 to pay Spraggins $31,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year — $23,000 in salary and $8,000 in benefits.

“Mayor Spraggins deserves every dime of it,” Tapley said.

Nabors did not take the mayor’s $60,000 salary.

The council will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Monday.