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Residents ask council to restore flower program

A member of the City of Demopolis Beautification Commission addressed the city council Monday asking that officials re-instate a previous program of planting and maintaining flowers within the city.

With residents and business owners attending in support, Kaye Evans said the city has ‘lost the spark’ that was prevalent in the earlier part of this decade. She asked the council consider bringing back the horticulture department along with the plantings.

“People have noticed a difference and it is important that we re-address this,” Evans said.

The horticulture department was merged with the Public Works Department about two years ago.

Mayor John Laney said he felt public works is doing an outstanding job under the new system, although those efforts may not be as visible as the blooming flowers.

“A lot of people don’t see the work being done by public works,” Laney said. “They’ve been doing a great job these past two years and have done a lot to improve the appearance of our city as a whole.”

Laney added that now is the time to consider changes as the city prepares its upcoming budget. “If we want to change some of our priorities, now is the time to do it,” he said.

If a flower program were to be brought back, Laney said the city would need the help of downtown business owners in maintaining them. Several business owners in attendance said they would be willing to help.

COUNCIL DISCUSSES WATER TOWER

Brian Brooker of the Marengo County Historical Society shared ideas from other city’s projects related to the preservation of the water tower that sits near the Demopolis City Landing.

The Demopolis Water Works Board had been looking into the demolition of the structure, but has also offered the city $65,000 — the estimated amount of the demolition — in the case it be preserved. The Water Works Board had asked the council to provide a decision by July 10, but it was decided the council would ask for more time to discuss the options.

Brooker said the tower is of historic significance due to its type and that it is among the most photographed landmarks in the city. He added that by using the water tower to create something new would add to the city’s river walk and  civic center area.

“There is an opportunity to grow and turn this into something new,” Brooker said. “I believe we all need to step back and think about what our city would look like without (the tower). Let’s take our time and not rush to tear it down.”

The council agreed to turn the discussion over to the city’s Historic Preservation Committee and come up with a plan to be discussed at the first council meeting in October.

ROMAN ALLEY TO BE EXTENDED

A longtime item on the city’s agenda made progress as the council voted to move forward with connecting the street to McNamara Street and turning it into a one-way street.

Currently, the street is a dead end and previous discussions centered on safety issues as the street is too narrow for larger emergency vehicles.

Marengo County will do the construction work and the Councilman Nathan Hardy said he would put $5,000 from his budget toward the project.

Other items discussed by the council included the following.

• The city rescinded a motion to approve a promissory note regarding a $1 million loan from Trustmark Bank that would be provided to Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital. Laney said the city needed to approve a warrant, rather than a promissory note.

“We are still doing the same thing, we just needed to follow different procedures and paperwork,” he said.

• The city approved an annual audit for FY 2018. Ryan Alexander of LeCroy, Hunter and Company said it was a “good year financially” for the city.

• At the request of Police Chief Rex Flowers, the council approved raising court fees to $160 for traffic-related cases and $262 for other court cases.

Flowers said the city has not increased fees in 10 years and that the increases would put the city in line with other neighboring municipalities.

• Kelley Mullins of the Canebrake Players asked the council to assist the organization in applying for a grant that could help construct a handicap-accessible lift and bathrooms at the Old School on Main.  She said the grant would be $20,000 and that the Players would raise funds to pay any difference in the cost of the project.

The council agreed to assist in applying for the grant.

• The city voted to increase the costs of renting the Demopolis Civic Center from $500 to $900 with an additional $200 for renting the kitchen. There will also be a $250 returnable deposit.

Public Works Director Barbara Blevins said the increase is needed in maintenance and upkeep.

• Councilman Charles Jones requested a committee be formed to study the impact of a possible 1-cent sales tax increase. Jones said he noticed other cities in the area have gone up and that Demopolis has needs that could benefit from the increased revenue.

The council agreed to establish a committee that would be chaired by Councilman Bill Meador.

• Resident Harold Park addressed the council voicing frustration that his previously stated concerns are not being addressed.

“I’ve seen six trucks driving south on Walnut Street and speeding is as bad as it’s ever been. The city is doing nothing to slow them down,” Park said.

Laney said the city would start over in terms of looking into those problems.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 18, 5:15 p.m., at Rooster Hall.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, July 3 issue of the Demopolis Times.)