wicker point

The council passed a resolution asking for annexation of 1,500 acres of property including Wicker Point. 

Wicker Point could soon be in the city limits of Alexander City.

Alexander City City Council voted 6-0 Monday night to ask the Alabama Legislature to annex the deep water point on Lake Martin. 

Officials were tight-lipped Monday night about what could be coming to the Russell Lands property, but everyone was excited.

“Thank you to everyone at Russell Lands for bringing this to us,” councilmember Eric Brown said. “It is exciting.”

Council president Tim Funderburk said, “It is wonderful news. I can’t wait for it to happen.”

The vote came after a 43-minute executive session with Russell Lands executives including David Sturdivant, Tom Lamberth, Steve Arnberg and Roger Holliday to discuss an economic opportunity. 

The council passed a resolution asking for annexation of 1,500 acres of property including Wicker Point. Russell Lands currently has more than two dozen cabins constructed in the 1950s and 1960s on Wicker Point it leases out. Many of the cabins have been rented by the same family for generations.

The proposed annexation has to be advertised for four weeks before it can be taken to the legislature and presented to lawmakers in Montgomery. The Alabama legislature will meet for its first day of regular session Feb. 4. 

Island annexation is nothing new to the council. It asked the legislature to annex Miner’s Cove on Sturdivant Creek in March. At buildout Miner’s Cove could see 80 new waterfront homes.

Mayor could see pay increase

Also discussed by the council, the next mayor of Alexander City could be getting a raise. Alexander City Human Resources director Kathy Railey and community development director Al Jones brought an ordinance to the council asking the mayor’s salary be raised to $80,000 per year and utilities superintendent duties be removed.

“It came to our attention the mayor’s salary had not been adjusted since 2004,” Railey said.

Decatur was mentioned as a comparable city and the mayor there is paid $94,000 a year.

The mayor of Alexander City currently receives $45,000 per year for mayor and $15,000 per year stipend for utilities. Jones said the 15-year delay is the reason for the large adjustment. He also said the mayor does not have the skill set needed for utilities.

“The length of time justifies it,” Jones said. “If you figure 3% a year since 2004, we would get pretty close. No mayor could go down to the treatment plant and decide what pump to replace. This would be strictly a mayor’s salary.”

Jones also said running a large organization also justifies it.

“The mayor is the 21st highest paid person in the town,” Jones said. “He runs a $55 million organization. (The pay) doesn’t reflect well on us.”

Councilmember Bobby Tapley said the mayor’s position should be held by one who wants to serve the community.

“It is a service job,” Tapley said. “If you are here for the pay, you are here for the wrong reasons.”

Other councilmembers were in support of raising the pay but wanted time for more discussion.

“I’m definitely in favor of it,” councilmember Scott Hardy said. “I do ask we table this until next meeting so everyone can look at it.”

Councilmember Chris Brown wanted to look at the pay for the position across the state, not just one city.

“I think it would be good to bring more comparables,” Brown said. “They’re two different things going from here to Decatur.”

Eric Brown added, “It needs to be addressed. I think it needs to be discussed more.”

The council tabled the motion to increase the mayor’s pay. It will be taken up in a work session at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10 and at the next council meeting. If approved, the raise would not go into effect until after the August 2020 election when a new term begins. Alabama law requires compensation increases for mayor and council have to be approved six months prior to an election.

Property in Russell campus sold

The council approved selling the old Russell Main Office to Amadeus Development Group LLC.  Amadeus was the only group to provide a request for proposal on the building after the city learned there was some interest. 

“Amadeus was the only respondent,” Jones said. “It didn’t exactly fit what we wanted. We did some negotiating and got something agreeable.”

The agreement with Amadeus will see the transfer of the building and the sale of 15.56 acres to the group for $10,000 an acre. 

In February the city purchased 11.6 acres for a cost of $275,000 under orders it would be cleaned up. Late Mayor Jim Nabors said at the time of the purchase in February there was interest in the property.

The resolution the council passed will allow the city to reclaim the building if no work has been started and can take back the property by repayment.

“They will have one year to put jobs in the building,” Jones said. “They are moving into it.”

Jones said the company will also bring tenants into the building as well. Jones acknowledged the city taking a loss on the property but said the city will still benefit with at least 30 new jobs and within the one-year guideline.

“According to their plan, I think it is doable,” Jones said. “Yes it is less than what we paid for it, but it is worth taking the loss for the jobs.”

City attorney Larkin Radney said selling the property is something the council can do because of the economic benefit.

The transfer passed 5-0 with Tapley abstaining.

The Alabama Secretary of State website lists the Amadeus Development Group as reserving its name in July listing Lake Martin Signature Construction co-owner Andrew McGreer as an agent but has not assigned its entity number.

The council approved paying an engineering firm overseeing a streetscape and sidewalk project at the bottom of Strand Park and additional $15,000 because the project had taken contractors longer than expected to complete. Of the $15,000, the city would only have to pay $3,000 as the other funds would come from the Alabama Department of Transportation. The measure failed at the last meeting 3-3. Jones said there was confusion over the request at the last meeting.

“The engineer is not hired to push the contractor,” Jones said. “They are hired to make sure (the project) is built to spec. The engineer is not responsible for hiring the contractor.”

Jones said the contractor is late with the project and already paid $5,500 in liquidated damages.

The nutrition center manager will be getting a raise of $7,529 after the approval from the council 5-1.

“It was intended to be in the 2019-20 budget,” Railey said. “It was discussed, but it was an oversight that it was not included in the budget.”

Tapley voted against the measure stating he is looking out for first responders who are leaving the city.

“I’m still fighting for the police and fire departments,” Tapley said. “That’s my pet peeve.”

Spraggins honored retiring Thomas C. Russell Field airport manager Mike Smith with a proclamation.

“We were fortunate to have him run the airport for 10 years,” Smith said.

In other action the Alexander City City Council:

• Approved a bid for a new air compressor at the Alexander City Fire Department Station 1. The compressor is used to refill air bottles for firefighter breathing apparatus. The department was awarded a grant in the amount of $45,600. The city will provide $2,400 in matching monies to replace a compressor installed more than 26 years ago.

• Approved Alabama Beverage Control alcohol license transfers for Corner Food Mart and Carlos Mexican Grill 

The next meeting of the Alexander City City Council is at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.