Pelham funds upgrades at Racquet Club, sewer treatment plant

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham will fund renovations at the Pelham Racquet Club and the city’s wastewater treatment plant during the 2011 fiscal year, after the City Council voted on several sections of the city’s budget during an Oct. 4 meeting.

The council voted 4-1 to budget about $2.5 million for upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant to bring the plant up to more stringent Alabama Department of Environmental Management standards, which will be phased in over the next few years.

Council members Teresa Nichols, Steve Powell, Karyl Rice and Council President Mike Dickens voted in favor of budgeting the money for the project.

Councilman Bill Meadows voted against funding the project for the 2011 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011.

In December 2009, the council voted to gradually increase sewer rates in the city in 2010 and 2011 to fund the treatment plant upgrades and to recoup an estimated $12.6 million lost by the sewer department over the past several years.

“I urge the council to please pass this, because this is the reason we passed the rate increase,” Dickens said of funding the treatment plant upgrades.

However, Meadows said the city should hold off one year on funding the upgrades, and instead save the money and allow it to collect interest.

“I am opposed to this. I realize that ADEM is mandating these upgrades, but we are in bad economic times,” Meadows said. “We have money in the bank right now.

“I say we keep our money in the bank for one more year and let it collect interest,” Meadows added.

The council also voted to budget $92,280 to fund upgrades at the Pelham Racquet Club, which are “necessities,” said Pelham Parks and Recreation Director Billy Crandall.

The project will include repairing tile on the club’s second-floor balcony, pressure washing and painting the entire building, repairing hand rails, repainting sections of the tennis courts, replacing 28 outdoor fans, replacing carpet inside the building and repairing and repainting interior walls.

“These are not luxury-type things. These things are definitely needs,” Crandall told the council.

The council also voted 4-1 to pass the city’s general operating budget, with Nichols, Powell, Rice and Dickens voting in favor of the motion and Meadows voting against it.

The council voted unanimously to approve the city’s Water and Sewer Department operating budget and the Pelham Library Board budget.

However, the council also postponed voting on the city’s Water Department capital improvement budget, which includes water line upgrades on Shelby County 35 and 33 and Alabama 119, and postponed voting on the city’s general fund capital improvement budget, which includes a $500,000 city sidewalk project.

The council likely will vote on the remaining two budget items during its Oct. 18 meeting.

If the city’s 2011 budget is completely passed during the Oct. 18 meeting, it will include $40,873,799 in expected revenues, and $40,859,241 in expected expenditures.

“I would like to thank the department heads for their hard work in presenting a bare-bones budget for the upcoming year,” Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said.

In other business, the council voted 4-1 to adopt an organizational structure for each of the city’s departments.

Nichols, Powell, Rice and Dickens voted in favor of the motion, and Meadows voted against it.

The organizational structure chart will help the city document how much money is allocated to each city employee, Powell said.

“This is simply to tell us where the tax money is going. It’s simply matching up the money to the positions,” Powell said. “It is not cast in stone. It does not affect the mayor’s or the department heads’ ability to flex and adjust throughout the year.”

But Meadows said he felt the organizational structure was too restrictive on the mayor and the city’s department heads.

“My thoughts are that it takes the day-to-day operations away from the mayor,” Meadows said. “I do not believe the council can dictate the number of people the city employs and the slot they are in.”