Study not free after all for cities

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &045; The acting city manager for the City of Talladega set the record straight on a comprehensive plan being constructed by the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission.

Last week, Councilman Jack Cooley tabled a request by Mayor Cecil Williamson for funding in the amount of $7,000 for a comprehensive plan to be developed through the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission. Cooley cited an article in The Talladega Daily Home newspaper that said that the East Alabama Commission was doing the plan at no charge for the City of Talladega.

Cooley said he wanted to know why the Alabama Tombigbee Commission would charge the City of Demopolis for virtually the same study since the two commissions are sister organizations.

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But Sue Horn, acting city manager for the City of Talladega, said Tuesday that her city has paid $28,000 over three years for the study.

Horn said the East Alabama Commission did pay for a portion of the study. The commission paid $22,500 over three years for the study.

Talladega, which has a population of approximately 17,000 people, contracted the East Alabama Commission to undertake the study in 2002. Horn said the study would normally not have taken three years but a change in the type of municipal government and a change in administrations has delayed the study several times.

The Talladega study is similar in scope to what Williamson is seeking for the city. According to the contract with the City of Talladega, the comprehensive study covers a 15-year plan that would update existing land usage, propose future land use and detail housing conditions, community facilities, water and sewage maps and a historic district.

Williamson said Tuesday morning she was planning to talk to the mayor of Talladega this week before going to the board with further information. However, she did say that based on what she knew about the two projects that it would not affect her recommendation.

One reason is the cost of the Alabama Tombigbee Commission’s proposal. While the Talladega study cost $50,500, the Demopolis study carries a price tag of only $27,000. Of that, the mayor acquired a grant of $20,000 through the University of West Alabama.

Prior to last week’s meeting, at least two councilmen said they expected the vote to pass if it came up. Both Councilmen Woody Collins and Melvin Yelverton said they thought the mayor had the votes. Both men also said they would vote for it.

On Friday, Cooley said he wanted to explore the Talladega plan before spending taxpayer dollars if there was a chance the city could get the Alabama Tombigbee Commission to do it for free. Collins said it was his impression that the commission would not offer that service at no charge.

Williamson said the study would actually be conducted by Larry Watts, a subcontractor who often works with the Alabama Tombigbee Commission. Williamson said the commission told her they did not have the personnel to conduct the study themselves and therefore would have to subcontract, which is their common practice for such projects.