By Cady Inabinett
The Montevallo City Council met Monday, April 12, for their regularly scheduled, biweekly meeting. The Council met to discuss the set agenda topics as well as field the concerns of citizens who chose to attend the meeting. The Council met both in person and via Zoom, with the meeting livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page.
The council started the meeting by establishing April as National Child Abuse and Prevention Month in Montevallo.
Mayor Rusty Nix acknowledged that, “Child abuse and neglect is a serious problem affecting every segment of our community, and finding a solution requires input and action from everyone in our community.”
The council also highlighted some statistics about child abuse in Shelby County, including that in 2020, 1,222 children in the county were “subjects of abuse, neglect, and prevention reports made to the Shelby County Department of Human Resources.”
Following this, Montevallo resident C.P. Pierson addressed the council about, “the possibility of hiring more people of color at City Hall.”
Pierson, who is the Vice President of the Shelby County NAACP and on the executive board of the state NAACP, pointed out that very few people of color work at City Hall and that Montevallo doesn’t have any Black police officers.
Pierson also suggested establishing a “police-citizen advisory board,” an idea he says has been discussed at NAACP meetings. He did not provide specifics on what this would entail, but did say, “We’re not talking about defunding the police, and this is not something that I am trying to talk bad about.”
City clerk Steve Gilbert responded to Pierson’s statement about hiring more people of color at City Hall by saying one Black woman applied for a recent job opening for mayor’s assistant, but that she is “the only person of color that applied for any openings” at City Hall.
No members of the city council responded to Pierson’s suggestion to establish a police-citizen advisory board.
Another citizen, Joyce Sherer, addressed the council about the hotel and brewery projects; asking why the council believed these projects would be successful.
Gilbert responded to this question by pointing out that three studies have been conducted on the feasibility and success of a hotel in Montevallo.
Additionally, he went on to say that the city has “worked with 58 Ink, which is Shelby County’s Economic Development Authority;” which the council met with during a closed executive session at their meeting on Feb. 22. Ink 58 provided the council with “some figures on actual possibilities of room rentals and the economic impact of having a hotel.”
Regarding the brewery project, Gilbert said that the lease for the former Victory Auto and Collision Center building has been presented to Interstellar Brewery, and that the city is now waiting to hear back from the owner and his attorneys.
He went on to say that, “All indication is that he intends to lease the building if the city provides a certain amount of repairs and refurbishing to the building.”
This led into a later discussion about allowing the city to “engage the services of Rod Kanter of Bradley, Arrant, Boult, Cummings LLP for the purpose of invoking Amendment 772” for the Victory Auto and Collision Center building project.
Amendment 772 is a means of offering incentives for the company that will occupy the building. Nix described the incentive as a “tiered five-year lease plan,” where the cost to lease the building would increase gradually over a five-year span.
Council member Martha Eisenberg spoke in opposition of invoking Amendment 772, saying that she asked Nix “back some time ago about incentives for a company that builds vehicles which were used for recreation, and you told me that we cannot do that.”
She went on to say that she was “totally opposed to giving any incentives to anything” on this basis.
Eisenberg went on to ask council member David King, who owns local pawn shop Goliath Lending LLC, if he was provided with an incentive plan while opening his business. King replied that he was not.
However, council member Kenny Dukes pointed out that, “the city didn’t own his property either,” and that the incentive plan outlined by Amendment 772 can only be put in place on city property.
Nix went on to say that, “the city can’t do anything with land transaction or building transaction without invoking Amendment 772.”
Gilbert also pointed out to Eisenberg that, “there are numerous other ways to give incentives” to businesses in the city, and suggested the Industrial Development Board for the recreational vehicle business Eisenberg spoke about.
He went on to say that, “This is the first I’ve heard about this business.”
The motion to invoke Amendment 772 passed, with only Eisenberg opposing it.
The council also discussed opening bids “for the purpose of constructing a tornado shelter at Stephens Park.” This bid process will remain open for three weeks, then the council will select a bidder to construct the new storm shelter.
Nix said that, “tornadoes coming through a couple of weeks ago really put everything on the fast track” with the project.
Eisenberg questioned if it would be possible to construct a storm shelter in the basement of the Victory building. She explained her belief that this would be more cost effective than building a new structure. Nix said this would not be a possibility because, “the Victory building, right now, is not storm certified.”
The process to get the building FEMA storm certified would entail replacing the walls and ceilings of the building. Nix went on to say, “you’re talking, basically, a new building” in order to make converting the basement to a storm shelter possible.
Eisenberg also suggested the idea of putting a metal building inside of the Victory building. Gilbert pointed out that this would not “meet FEMA requirements.”
The motion to open the bidding process passed unanimously.
The next City Council meeting will be held Monday, April 26, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page. Citizens may also attend the meeting in person at City Hall, however there will be limited seating and social distancing protocols put in place.