By CATHERINE LEGG / Community columnist
Planning for the new year almost requires a look at the past. A scan of the 1957 minutes of the Montevallo City Council was very interesting and makes us wonder just how far we have come in a half-century and just how far we are going.
The mayor of this small town of less than 3,000 (today the population is estimated at 6,000) was the local newspaper owner William Wyatt. On the city council were businessmen Eddie Watson, Pete Givhan and Harvey Rochester. Also serving were Milton Orr, a dentist, and Ralph Sears, the public relations director at Alabama College. In later years, both Orr and Sears served mayoral terms -Sears was Montevallo’s mayor for almost 28 years.
In 1957, the all-male Caucasian council was elected at-large. It’s interesting to note here that in the 1980’s George Dailey began the movement that required that the council be elected by districts. In 1984, Dailey became the first African-American on the council. Women had served in that capacity as early as the 1930’s.
City clerk R. C. Henderson managed the $50,000 budget in 1957, now Montevallo’s budget is $3,772.000. The chief of police was Harry Kendrick and the fire chief was Bill Pendleton. Kendrick had one deputy and a night watchman, while Pendleton headed up an all-volunteer fire department. The City bought a new fire truck that year at a cost of $10,000. This year the new truck bought cost more than $550,000.
There were many important decisions recorded in the 1957 minutes. Among them a fire siren was installed at the intersection of Ashville Road and Oak St. Wilson Drive was paved. Tobacco taxes were imposed. Permission was granted for James Seaman to build a sawmill on Highway 25 and property taxes were figured at 5 mills (7 mills today) on assessed value. It was deemed unlawful to keep domestic animals in town limits except within a minimum area of 1000 sq. ft. for one animal and 200 sq. ft. for each additional animal.
Other interesting decisions were made. The town library was established and a library board set up. The library was housed in what is now the side of City Hall where the mayor’s office is. Bids were taken and the decision made to remove the large oak trees on Main and Middle Streets. Harvey Rochester remembered, “That was a very controversial decision. But perhaps the most controversial was the decision to extend the sewer line and to assess property owners. We had protest meetings on that issue and some of the citizens actually booed us. That was tough, but we had the health of our city to consider.”
Many, many changes have taken place in the last 50 years and tough decisions made. Today local governments face equally controversial issues and, as in 1957, must keep in mind their primary responsibilities: The health, safety and welfare of their communities.
Catherine Legg can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.