Calera seeks to set new election date

Calera voters may get a chance Nov. 10 to end a nearly yearlong election dispute after the Calera City Council Tuesday unanimously approved plans to open the polls for a second time.

The plan still must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice before the election date is finalized, but council members said they planned to submit the request promptly.

“Of course this still has to be approved by the Justice Department, so we are going to send them this request,” Calera Mayor George Roy told the council. “We will have to post notices I think in four places in the city.”

The proposed election date will come more than a year after the city’s Aug. 2008 municipal election.

The Department of Justice in Oct. 2008 rejected the city’s 2008 election results after it protested the city’s redistricting plan. The redistricting plan cut out the city’s only black voting district, according to the Justice Department.

Though mayor-elect Jon Graham and newly elected members of the city council were certified after the 2008 election, the department’s ruling prevented them from being sworn in. During the next election, Calera voters will cast ballots for six council members, adding one seat to the now five-member council.

Roy and the incumbent city council have remained in office since the decision.

Nineteen percent of Calera’s nearly 6,000 registered voters are black, attorney Dan Head previously said.

If Tuesday’s election plan is approved, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Calera Community Center on Highway 31. If a runoff election is necessary, it will be held Dec. 22.

All candidates for the November race would have to qualify before Sept. 23. Those elected would take office before Jan. 1, 2010, according to the election plan.

In other business, the council also:

Wrapped up more than six months of discussions by narrowly passing the city’s most recent comprehensive plan.

The plan passed 3-2, with Mayor George Roy, District 2 Councilman Ernest Montgomery and District 3 Councilman Bobby Joe Phillips voting for and District 4 Councilman David Bradshaw and District 5 Councilman Mike Roberson voting against. District 1 Councilman Jerry Davis did not attend the meeting.

City officials and planning firms have been discussing the comprehensive plan since February. The plan contains several maps and future plans designed to be a blueprint for the city’s growth.

But Roberson told the council one item on the plan made him “uncomfortable” as he explained why he planned to vote against the motion.

“This plan has a lot of good things on it, but I have a problem with the Highway 12 intersection,” Roberson said. “I’m just not comfortable voting for that part of the plan.”

The document outlines plans to possibly connect Highway 12 with Spring Creek Road in the northwest section of the city. If the roads were connected, drivers would not be forced to turn onto Highway 22 to drive from Highway 12 to Spring Creek Road.

Maps in the plan also identify the area around the Highway 22-Highway 12 intersection as a candidate for heavy apartment development.

Roberson explained he could not support a plan outlining apartment development near Highway 12.

“Apartments are not a bad thing. There are certainly places for them,” Roberson said. “I guess I just have a problem with them being there.”

“This plan says that would be a good place for apartments, but you would still have to rezone anything before you built,” Roy replied. “This comprehensive plan does nothing more than say that would be a good place for them.”

Other possible apartment development areas outlined in the plan were areas near the intersection of Highway 25 and Interstate 65, north of Highway 16, west of downtown Calera and west of Highway 31 north and south of I-65.

The plan also proposed several new roads constructed to bring “greater connectivity” within the city, according to the document.

The plan suggested constructing a Highway 25 bypass north of downtown Calera to keep truck traffic off the city’s busiest roads, a road connecting Highway 25 with Highway 31 near Highway 31’s intersection with the proposed bypass and a road connecting Highway 42 with the new road running from Highway 25 to Highway 31.

Approved a $4,000 request from the Calera Police Department to purchase radio system upgrades and other communication equipment.

The upgrades will come at no cost to the city, as the Calera 911 department will reimburse the city for the equipment, said Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley.

Approved a $431 request from the Calera Police Department to purchase gun parts necessary for the department’s training.

Approved an Oct. 3 parade through downtown Calera designed to promote a program to donate jackets and other necessities to needy children.

The parade will be sponsored by Rev. Daniel Bishop Jr., and will run from the National Guard armory to the Calera Middle School football field.