Failed septic tank creates dilemma for Pelham City Council

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Members of the Pelham City Council are considering several methods of returning service to a pair of bathrooms at Pelham City Park after a failed septic tank forced the city to shut them down.

Because the septic tank failed shortly before the winter temperatures arrived, demand for the bathrooms hasn’t been high for the past few months, said Pelham Parks and Recreation Director Billy Crandall.

However, with Pelham’s youth baseball and softball leagues set to begin practicing in February, functioning bathrooms will soon become a necessity, Crandall said.

“On February 5, we will start baseball and softball out there, and we are going to have a lot of kids that need to go to the bathroom,” Crandall told the council during its Jan. 17 meeting. “We need to do something to provide them with a bathroom at those small fields.”

It would likely cost the city between $70,000-$100,000 to tie the bathrooms into Pelham’s sewer line, and a new septic tank at the park would cost about $8,600, said Public Works Director Eddy Jowers.

However, installing a new septic tank at the park would violate a current city ordinance requiring property owners to tie into the city’s sewer line if they are able, said Councilman Steve Powell.

“It would violate the city’s ordinance for the city of Pelham to renovate or replace the septic tank that’s there,” Powell said. “The city attorney told us not to do it.”

Because installing a new septic tank would likely be a fraction of the cost of tying into the sewer line, some council members considered changing the ordinance.

“We are in a position where we either change the ordinance, go against it, which is not something I want to do, or pay beaucoup bucks for something we really don’t need,” said Council President Mike Dickens.

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said installing a new septic tank likely would be the most cost-effective way of bringing the bathrooms to working order.

“The cheapest way for the city of Pelham is to install a new septic tank,” Murphy told the council. “If you want to change the ordinance, then that’s what you’ve got to do.

“The old ordinance says we have to tie into sewer. That’s going to cost the city $70,000 to $100,000,” Murphy added. “It’s y’all’s call. It’s how you want to spend the money.”

Councilwoman Karyl Rice said any change to the ordinance should apply to everyone in Pelham.

“I don’t think we should do it (and replace the septic tank without changing the ordinance) and then say the citizens can’t do it,” Rice said. “That’s not right. I’m not for that.”

The council asked Crandall to determine the best method of bringing the bathrooms to working order, including possibly installing above-ground sewer lines, and return to the council with a recommendation on Jan. 24.

“We need to make a decision on that quickly rather than keep talking about it,” Murphy said.

In other business, the council:

Accepted a $150,499 bid from Birmingham-based Sullivan Communications to purchase radio equipment for the Pelham Fire Department. The communications likely will be funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant, said Fire Chief Danny Ray.

Accepted a $129,286 bid from the Georgia-based Yamaha Golf Car Company to enter into a four-year lease of 70 golf carts, two beverage carts and two utility carts.

Voted to send a request to state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, urging them to sponsor legislation allowing Pelham to annex property currently completely surrounded by Pelham city limits.

The city currently has several property “islands” in its city limits off Shelby County 11 and Shelby County 35, said Revenue Director Mike Morgan.

“This would say anything we absolutely circle we could take into the city,” Morgan said.