Governor will appoint Pelham council member

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley will appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the Pelham City Council after the current council members were unable to agree on who should fill the open spot.

The announcement came during a Feb. 20 meeting, during which the council had planned to appoint and swear in a new council member to fill the spot vacated when former councilman Mike Dickens stepped down to become the city’s municipal court administrator.

Council members interviewed 10 candidates for the open spot on Feb. 13, but were unable to agree which candidate to appoint. The 10 candidates are Rick Wash, Jim Phillips, Harold Watson, Thomas Davidson, Rick Hayes, Mildred Lanier, Maurice Mercer, Bob Sullivan, David Ladewig and Ron Scott.

The new council member will serve until Nov. 5, 2012.

“It appears the council members are not able to come to a consensus on the professional competency of a candidate, so we will be turning the process of determining that over to the governor,” Council President Teresa Nichols said during the Feb. 20 pre-meeting work session.

According to Alabama law, the City Council had until Feb. 28 to appoint someone to fill the vacancy before the decision went to the governor. Each of the four current council members and Pelham Mayor Don Murphy will now each fill out a template letter nominating someone to fill the spot.

The sealed letters must be turned in by Feb. 24 to Pelham City Clerk Tom Seale, who will mail the letters to Montgomery.

Councilman Steve Powell said sunshine laws deterred the council from agreeing on a candidate.

“I fully believe there would have been a chance for us to come to a consensus if we were allowed to go to a restaurant, order some food and sit in a back room and have some healthy dialogue,” Powell said. “But that’s prohibited by law. We can all walk away knowing that we are transparent.”

In other business, the council:

-Voted unanimously to pay a total of $211,000 over the next three years to match a more than $1 million Birmingham Metropolitan Planning Organization grant to construct sidewalks along Bearden Road from Industrial Park Drive to Pelham High School.

The project will also include sidewalks along Industrial Park Drive between Bearden Road and U.S. 31. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

-Voted 3-1 to enact a new compensation plan for the next elected mayor and City Council, which will go into effect on Nov. 5.

The new plan keeps council members’ compensation at $367.50 per meeting, and the council president’s pay at $420 per meeting, but will allow future council members to receive pay if they miss a regular meeting while representing the city on official business, if they are sick, if there is less than a quorum available to meet or if they miss a meeting for a personal reason.

The new plan will allow future council members to miss up to four excused meetings a year while still receiving pay.