Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven addresses residents during a brainstorming session June 19. (Reporter photo/Christine Boatwright)

Archived Story

Chelsea experiences ‘growing pains’

Published 11:09pm Tuesday, June 19, 2012

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

CHELSEA – More than 50 residents attended the Chelsea City Council meeting June 19. After the meeting, Mayor Earl Niven and the City Council held a brainstorming session for residents to discuss Chelsea’s future.

During the meeting, Niven said the City of Chelsea has donated more than $1.1 million to local schools for the past years and recently voted to spend $500,000 on a gym in the new elementary school.

Niven also mentioned the city’s youth sports facilities, including the baseball and softball complex, football practice areas and soccer fields. According to Niven, the city took over facility maintenance about four years ago, and the city pays for utilities and upkeep.

“We are a city, not a youth club, not a fire department and not a police department,” Niven said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job in the city’s 16 years in existence.”

The majority of the session’s discussion revolved around the Chelsea Youth Club and the city’s athletic facilities.

Steve Kallaher, CYC baseball league director, said the league needs the city’s help.

“We’re a 6A program, and in order to compete and not be embarrassed, we need the facilities,” he said.

Danny Evans, field director for CYC baseball board, said the city has a “1970s facility,” and recent updates are “just a big Bandaid” for what the city needs to accommodate a growing population.

“We need better facilities,” he said, mentioning the city’s practice football field is “dangerous” to youth.

Chelsea resident Tracie Marcum called the athletic facilities “inadequate at best.”

“We want our children to rank amongst those from Oak Mountain or Hoover,” she said to Niven. “Thank you for your attempts, but your attempts for the parents of Chelsea are not enough.”

City Councilman Robert Barnes said Chelsea faces different problems from other cities its size since it is a new city.

“We have a little different set of problems as a new city,” Barnes said. “Everything we do, we start from scratch. We have to buy the property.”

Johnny Howard, president of the CYC executive board, said the relationship between the executive board and the Chelsea City Council is “better than ever,” but every Chelsea youth sport needs help.

According to Howard, when the city took over facility maintenance, baseball league fees dropped from $155 per child to $110.

“The mayor knows and agrees we’re not where we need to be,” he said.

Howard said the CYC football program has 12 teams for kindergarten through sixth grade, and the city only has three “legitimate” places for teams to practice.

Marcum said the city is “busting at the seams,” and the residents need answers and help.

Niven proposed a community and senior adult complex.

Niven said he and the council would review the suggestions made during the session, and would return within a month with a plan.

“We need a clear picture of what we’re talking about,” he said.

“Do we have everything? No. Are we trying to get it? Yes,” Niven said. “We’re 16 years old. We have growing pains, and we are trying to address those pains.”

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  • CallingUout

    Why does Mayor Niven cater to the Sr. Citizens (did he not get the memo that we are predominately a young family based community? We already have a Sr. Citizens center on Highway 36 in front of Windstone. The answer my friends….he cares more about the needs of his age group, the people (and large family tree) that keep him in office. We need “Community” Centers not Sr. Citizens Centers.

    The City needs a FT business development/zoning/residential compliance officer who can recruit large retailers (Sam’s or Costco?), restaurants and businesses needed to generate the revenue needed to accommodate the citizen’s needs. (The mayor has mostly attracted burger joints in the way of new business).
    Someone to fix the City’s bizarre zoning of schools, churches, retailers and residential communities. Someone who will hold residential developers accountable by withholding bond money if the basic requirements of community development, such a street signs and final top coat of asphalt, are not met. Stop issuing business permits to developers who continually dodge these standards. Oh, my bad we have no standards! (Exactly why this would benefit our city greatly.) And for God’s sake someone who can come up with solutions to school/train traffic backups at 39 & 47.

    @Greg05 – in response to City employees. Currently the Fire Department makes up the largest portion of City personnel. They are employed PT and therefore not offered benefits. This is how our Mayor/City/Council treats the people who risk their lives to protect ours? There is a lot of employee turnover within the department because it’s easy to find a job with a city who does offer these benefits (DUH! Who wouldn’t – they have families to take care of and that means a job with benefits)

    With this said, I am not surprised the Mayor and Council view improvements to parks/recreation as a communities frivolous WANT and not a NEED.

    The Mayor has been very successful brokering the sale of family land during his tenure but the citizens of Chelsea do not benefit when his focus is to secure the financial security of his kin. We need new blood where our City’s leadership is concerned, someone who does not practice back scratching politics, someone with fresh ideas and passion to take us to the next level but we will not get this if we keep reelecting him.

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  • Greg05

    At some point Mayor Niven will need to stop running Chelsea as if it is some small backwoods “town” and come to the realization that his home town has grown. Chelsea is now a suburban city on the outskirts of the largest metropolitan area in the state. Chelsea is home to a multitude of retail establishments which are the basis for a tremendous tax revenue stream. Cities such as Helena, Columbiana, Vincent, and even the unincorporated Oak Mountain area all have much less commerce yet they manage to supply their citizens with many more services and nicer city park facilities than are being provided by our completely inept city government. Helena is a prime example of a city with much less commercial tax revenue yet they provide their citizens with city police and fire departments, city sewer, a multitude of city parks and a youth sports complex.
    We keep hearing the Mayor mention the need for an adult/senior community center. A wise Mayor would seize this opportunity to meet the needs of both the seniors and the youth of our community by incorporating the new senior center into a new city park facility which would include a city park, youth sports complex (baseball/softball fields, lighted youth football stadium), tennis courts, a lighted walking trail and maybe even a few city employees to maintain the facility. These are all things provided by other cities of our size and some cities that are smaller than ours with less commercial commerce. Where is the money going Mr. Mayor? Many in our community are beginning to question the integrity of your office and the city council would be wise to separate themselves from you very soon or risk questions about their own integrity.

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  • tractortime

    Wow sounds like Pelham’s Don Murphy, flood plain and all. Sounds like our council too. Bow to me! I am the power.

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  • tmarcum

    This article does not do the meeting justice, one had to of been there. It was nothing but excuse after excuse from Mayor Niven, like always. Over the years he has made promises to me and other parents and citizens that were never followed through on. As long as he is in office, there will never be improvement to our Youth Sporting facilities. That’s the bottom line. He just wants to toot his own horn about this and that and fails to listen to the cries of his community. We, as parents, were practically begging him for a solution for the lack of a football facility last night and they only thing he could answer back was about “planning” another senior center. The time for planning something that big has run out. Our kids need us and they need us now.
    Counsel woman Juanita Champion piped up to say that it wasn’t a law for the Mayor to even allow us to speak in these meetings. IS SHE FOR REAL? When you talk down to people the way Mayor Nivens does, you can expect someone to take offense and someone to speak up about it. Thank you Dan Levans for calling him out on it that he is supposed to serve US as a community. Not tell us that we are liars and jump on the defensive. We need to come together as a community, not continue to create separation.
    The talk of land the city has bought, but done nothing with, some of it on a flood plain…just baffles me, why on earth would we buy land that is basically unusable?
    We, the citizens of Chelsea, need to find a candidate to support that will get Nivens out of office this election so we can grow like we need to, and I will stop at NOTHING to get that candidate elected. And not just the Mayor, but the council seats as well. We need NEW BLOOD to help Chelsea grow. As you can tell, I am loud and obnoxious and I won’t stop until my voice is heard. Finally, I had to leave the meeting because it’s the same empty promises he always makes and nothing ever gets done. The money is there, the willingness on behalf of the parents is there, so why do we get nothing but hot air from the Mayor’s office? He says this is the first he has heard of such needs. That is absolutely not true as I, myself, have been to those meetings on several occasions and this issue is ALWAYS brought up.
    He is out of touch with today’s society. Proclaiming in a loud condescending tone “I am the Mayor of this town!” To which I can only say “I hope not for long.”

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