Alabaster council considering changing council-mayor form of government

Published 11:28 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Members of the Alabaster City Council are considering one day changing the city’s form of government from its current ward-representative council and mayor system.

The announcement came during an April 20 council work session, during which Council President Jim McClain distributed information about several different types of government systems.

Currently, voters in Alabaster elect City Council representatives from the city’s seven wards and a part-time mayor. But McClain asked the council members to study the information and decide if another form of government would be more efficient.

“All it comes down to is are we operating as efficiently as we can with the way we are set up right now,” McClain said. “No offense to anyone in this room, but the question was what is the most effective way to grown and have continuity from one year to the next?”

The city, with approval from the U.S. Department of Justice, could decide to have voters elect council members at-large instead of as ward representatives.

Council members are also considering establishing a City Council-manager system, which could be set up a few different ways, said City Attorney Jeff Brumlow.

The council could pass an ordinance to appoint a full-time city manager, who would have power to appoint members of certain boards and conduct other administrative tasks.

The system would still allow for an elected mayor. However, the current laws would give the mayor and city manager overlapping responsibilities, and it is unclear which official would be in charge of certain areas of the city government, Brumlow said.

“The way it reads right now, there would be so many conflicts and overlapping responsibilities,” Brumlow said. “If the mayor and city manager always agreed, it wouldn’t be an issue. But if they had a disagreement, then it would be an issue.”

The council could also call for a referendum vote to move to the council-manager setup and essentially do away with the mayor’s position, Brumlow said.

“In that case, the manager would essentially be a hired mayor,” Brumlow said. “You could still have a mayor in that scenario, but he would be more of a figurehead.”

After McClain distributed the information, Alabaster Mayor David Frings said he was not included in council members’ previous discussions about possibly changing the form of government.

“I am offended by it,” Frings said. “Look at what we have accomplished the last several years with our current system. Why do you want to take that away from the people?”

Ward 6 Councilman Scott Brakefield said he would study the information, and said he was open to the idea of changing the system.

“I’m all for anything that will improve efficiency in our city,” Brakefield said. “If it comes out that we would be better served as a City Council at-large, I would be in support of it.”