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Demopolis building inspector defends dilapidated properties process

Demopolis City Building Official Julius Rembert reported to the city council Thursday regarding ongoing dilapidated properties projects, including submitting a report on the areas where previous properties have been demolished.

The report came after a resident’s comment during the Jan. 4 meeting suggesting that the dilapidated properties effort was focused on certain areas.

“I’m very concerned that we have received a complaint indicating that this process is allegedly targeting only one area of the city,” Rembert said.

Rembert provided a zoning map to the council that he said showed that targeting dilapidated properties has been a citywide effort.

“The zoning map documents that we have posted properties in the French Creek area, the west side, the south side, downtown, as well as the north side,” Rembert said, adding that he is working to display the information on the city’s website to help keep citizens informed about the process.

In the meantime, the building inspector said his office continues to receive phone calls from the public requesting information about the process. He said the city attorney is completing paperwork to file liens on seven properties that were authorized for abatement at the Jan. 4 council meeting.

The department is currently soliciting bids for the demolition of several properties involving “non-compliant property owners.”

Two properties that have already been demolished by the city will be advertised for auction in the near future.

Since the process began, Rembert said, the city has completed 12 demolitions with four others in progress.

“I would like to thank our citizens for continuing to report these unsafe properties for the good of our city,” he said. “We look forward to our continued partnership with property owners to move this process forward in 2018.”

Other items discussed during the meeting included:

• Tabled the nominations process for selecting new members to the Demopolis Board of Education, the Demopolis Water and Sewer Board, and the Marengo County Economic Development Authority Board.

The seat on the DBOE will be vacated in April when current board member Jim Stafford’s term expires. Stafford has served two full terms on that board.

There are three terms expiring on the MCEDA board, according to Mayor John Laney.

The council voted to table the nominations for each of the boards as two councilmen, Nathan Hardy and Charles Jones, were absent from Thursday’s meeting.

• The mayor reported that Neel-Schaffer Engineering has completed its review of bringing bridges on Jackson Street to full grades. He said a report on that work would come, likely in February.

Councilman Bill Meador said he would like to see included in the plan an extension of the guardrails leading to the bridges.

• Public Safety Director Tommie Reese requested the council approve grant applications: one for fire department equipment and the other for a small pumper truck.

The equipment grant would be about $149,000 with a city match of over $13,000. Some of those funds would go to purchase turnout gear to replace older gear currently in use, according to Reese.

The council approved the application for the grant.

Members of the council voiced concerns about a grant for a pumper truck. Reese said the truck could be used for certain calls, particularly EMS calls, and would eliminate the need to respond with larger trucks. That grant was for $163,000 with a city match of $29,000.

The council did not approve the application.

“I cannot support (the pumper truck grant) until we know more about the ambulance service,” Laney said. “I’m concerned with buying equipment without having a plan.”

The grant deadline is in February with awarding not coming until later in the year.

• The council approved a public assembly application for Rooster Day 2018, which will be held Saturday, April 14.

• The council approved ABC off-premise licenses for the Front Row, located at 811 E. Pettus St.

• The council approved adding verbiage to the city’s internal control documents regarding the handling of surplus property.

• The council approved the placement of a streetlight on Bell Street.

During the public comments, resident Harold Park said he wanted to correct a statement he made at the last meeting indicating that Police Chief Tommie Reese was a voting member of the Confederate Monument Committee. He said he has since learned that was not the case and that he wanted to publicly apologize to Reese.

Park did request that the council provide more information on why the insurance company that covers the statue would pay for the change from the soldier to an obelisk. He also voiced concerns over the Attorney General opinion as it refers to “monument” and not the replacing of the soldier.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 1., 5:15 p.m., at Rooster Hall.

(This article originally published in the Saturday, Jan. 20, print edition of the Demopolis Times.)