November 2011

News

Pell City Council decides on redistricting map

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Pell City -- After a public hearing Monday night, the Pell City Council agreed to create an ordinance for Map 3 of the redistricting proposals in a 5-1 vote.

During the hearing, J.T. Carter objected to all three proposal maps, saying he disagreed with the housing authority no longer being represented in District 2. The housing authority was formerly included in District 2.

"Leaving out the public housing authority is not right," Carter said.

Brett Isom of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham said omitting the housing authority was necessary to maintain District 2 as a minority district. Isom drafted all three of the proposal maps.

"We face the same challenges as we did last time," councilman Donnie Todd said, relating the current situation to the last time the city went through the redistricting process ten years ago.

According to Isom, 70 percent of those residing in the housing authority are white, so if it were included in District 2, that district would no longer be considered a minority district.

Based on numbers provided by the U.S. 2010 Census, Isom said each district should have 2.539 people, allowing for a 5 percent deviation recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice. The numbers presented in Map 3 show District 1 as having a minus 1.5 percent, District 2 a minus 10.7 percent, District 3 a plus 5 percent, District 4 a 14.7 percent and District 5 a minus 7.5 percent deviation.

Council member Dot Wood voted against the Map 3 proposal believing the Department of Justice will question the wide range in deviations, which would send it back to the council, forcing the council to adopt another proposal before the end of December.

During the meeting Mayor Hereford and the council presented proclamations of achievement, recognition and declaration. Judge Alan Furr was honored for his years of service to Pell City and his continued service as the recently appointed district judge of St. Clair County. Former city clerk Jennifer Brown was presented with a proclamation of recognition for her service as the city clerk for Pell City since June of 2008. Brown resigned two weeks ago.

Mayor Hereford presented a proclamation to the Boys and Girls Club of Pell City, declaring Nov. 17 as a city wide day of awareness for anti-bullying. Students in Pell City schools have partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to create Anti-Bullying Week, Nov. 14-18, a program similar to Red Ribbon Week,

"These young people have really taken a lead in the community. Nobody's done it like they have," Mayor Hereford said.

Lakeside Hospice was also presented with a proclamation for hospice month, recognizing their dedication to hospice care in Pell City. More than 1.5 million people receive hospice care nationwide. The proclamation declared Nov. 11 as a day of recognition for hospice care. On Friday Lakeside Hospice celebrates 20 years of openly offering their services to the community. The organization has never turned a patient away, regardless of ability to pay.

In other actions:

  • The council approved the hire of three city attorneys: Lyle Harmon, John Rhea and Brandi Williams.
  • Upon Jennifer Brown's resignation as City Clerk, the council appointed Penny Isbell as acting City Clerk.
  • Jennifer Brown was removed and Penny Isbell was added as signatory for Metro Bank, Union State Bank, BB&T Bank, Regions Bank, Aliant Bank and RBC Bank.
  • A pay grade was set for the City Manager position of $72,000-103,000.
  • A pay grade of $47,300-63,169 was set for the recently approved Assistant Fire Chief position. The Fire Chief also received authorization from the council to proceed with posting and fill the Assistant Fire Chief position.
  • The council authorized the Fire Chief to expend budgeted funds from the HazMat line item to purchase HazMat equipment. The council granted approval for future HazMat equipment to be obtained through a program administered by the Department of Energy. Items that are not considered big-ticket items may be selected online at no cost to the Fire Department. The only possible expense is the shipping of those items.
  • Police Chief Turley asked the council to consider soliciting bids for new police vehicles. The police department is looking at leasing five vehicles. The council approved the request along with a request to solicit bids for equipment for the new cars.
  • The council approved soliciting bids for equipment through the Library Grant

Council OKs new voting district map for Pell City

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PELL CITY -- The City Council approved a new voting district map for the city at Monday night's council meeting.

The council gave its approval after a public hearing, held prior to the meeting about the map proposals. The council authorized the mayor to move forward with drafting an ordinance for the new redistricting map by a 5-1 vote, with Dot Wood voting against the Map 3 proposal.

At Monday night's hearing, Pell City resident J.T. Carter publicly objected to all three map proposals, because areas of District 2 were removed from original district.

Carter ran for the District 2 Board of Education seat three times, and the District 2 council seat unsuccessfully once.

He said the housing project, which was always in District 2 was removed from the proposed district maps.

He said it looks like city officials were gerrymandering.

"I see a shade of grey in what you are doing," Carter said.

But Brett Isom, with the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, who drafted all three maps for the city, said it was necessary to exclude the housing project to maintain a minority district.

He said 70 precent of the people living in the housing project are white.

But Carter said the makeup of the housing project changes from year to year.

At last month's council meeting, the council rejected one of two council district map proposals that were initially drafted by Isom.

Isom drafted a third map after some council members voiced concerns about changes in District 4 and 5 in the original two map proposals.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, District 4 saw the largest increase in population and currently has 3,673 people living inside that district. In Isom's first two district map proposals, the District 4 population count was reduced to 2,664-2,696 people.

Isom told the council his first two proposed redistricting maps remained within the 5 percent population deviation for each district, recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice.

With the approval of Map 3, four of the five districts vary more in populations than the first two map proposals.

The 2010 U.S. Census showed the minority district dropped below the 50 percent mark since the last redistricting process 10 years ago. Currently only about 47 percent of District 2 represents the minority vote.

In Map 3, District 2 remains a minority district.

With the proposed redistricting Map 3, District 4 has a plus 14.7 percent deviation in population compared to the other four districts. District 2 has a minus 10.7 percent deviation, District 5 has a minus 7.5 percent deviation, District 3 has a plus 5 percent deviation and District 1 has a minus 1.5 percent population deviation.

Isom told the council ideally each district should have about 2,539 people, give or take a 5 percent deviation.

In the Map 3 proposal, District 1 has 2,500 people, District 2 has 2,268 people, District 3 has 2,666 people, District 4 has 2,913 people and District 5 has 2,348 people.

He told the council at Monday night's meeting the U.S. Department of Justice will likely question the wide population deviation between Districts 4 and 5.

Wood said she voted against the Map 3 proposal because the DOJ could reject the map proposal and the process could come back to the council, which would then have limited time.

In other matters Monday night, the council:

  • Appointed Penny Isbell as the acting city clerk until a permanent city clerk is hired.
  • Approved several resolutions to remove the authority of former City Clerk Jennifer Brown for signing bank checks and providing Isbell the authority to sign checks from several different accounts for the city.
  • Approved a proclamation proclaiming Nov. 17 as Anti-Bullying Day.
  • Approved a proclamation commending former City Clerk Jennifer Brown for her "Distinguished Service," to the city. Brown took a new job in the private sector.
  • Approved a proclamation commending former city attorney Alan Furr for his "Distinguished Service," to the city. Furr was appointed by the governor as the new St. Clair County District Court Judge.
  • Approved the purchase of Hazmat equipment and to participate in a program to secure additional Hazmat equipment at no cost to the city, except shipping costs.
  • Approved to solicit bids for new police vehicles and for equipping the new vehicles.
  • Approved to solicit bids for library equipment.
  • Approved a proclamation proclaiming November as National Hospice Month in Pell City.
  • Approved the pay grades for the new city manager position from Grade 37-45 with a salary range from $72,000-$103,000.
  • Approved to hire three attorneys for the city -- John Rhea, Lyle Harmon and Brandi Williams

Via the Daily Home

RPCGB Hosts 280 Open House

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Public house to display Highway 280 plans

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Drivers who frequent 280 regularly can learn more on Wednesday about what is in the works to improve the congested traffic.

The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham will host a public open house at the Marriott Hotel on 280. It begins at 3:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and will run until 9:00 p.m. The event is open to the public.

The state has recommended an elevated highway, but several cities along 280 oppose that idea. A grassroots organization has offered an alternative plan.

Via MyFoxAL

Sonny Posey, Mayor of Jasper

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  • A Jasper native who graduated from the Jasper City School System and also attended Walker College
  • Worked from 1962 to 2004 in the radio and broadcast related industries
  • Elected to the City Council to represent District III in 1992 and served two terms as Council President
  • Elected as Mayor in 2004 to serve the first of two terms in office
  • Family: Wife, Peggy Hayes Posey from Cordova, also a graduate of Walker High School and attended Walker College. They have two sons, Lee and Jamie and two grandsons, John and Sam.
  • Hobbies include fishing, Alabama football, gardening, and spending time with his grandsons

Revolving Loan Fund Highlight: BioGX, inc.

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Each month, we will highlight a recipient of our Revolving Loan Fund Program. This month's highlight is BioGX, Inc.

BioGX, Inc. is a biotechnology company located in downtown Birmingham. They provide custom molecular assay design and development services and are currently developing and selling tests for real-time PCR based detection across numerous applications. They have recently developed a test for use on salmonella in egg and poultry, and two new multiplex panels for specific e. coli detection. BioGX is located in the Innovation Depot.

BioGx is a part of the RPCGB's Accounts Receivable Program within the Revolving Loan Fund Program. This program is for incubator tenants of the Innovation Depot and the Bessemer Business Incubation System. The program provides quick, low-cost working capital loans to small business using their receivables as collateral over a 30-day term. The maximum loan amount is $25,000 and rates vary depending on the project.

To learn more about the Revolving Loan Fund Program and how your business might benefit, please visit our Loan Program page.

SAVE THE DATE: RPCGB Annual Meeting

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SAVE THE DATE

2012 RPCGB Annual Meeting

January 25, 2012
The Club
1 Robert Smith Drive, Birmingham, AL 35209

Training Sessions 9am - 11:15am
Luncheon 11:30am - 1:00pm

Keynote Speaker: Mr. Mitchell Silver, AICP, PP
President, American Planning Association
Chief Planning & Economic Development Officer and Director, Department of City Planning for the City of Raleigh

Brochures and information on the RPCGB website coming soon!

RPCGB To Conduct a Corridor Workshop

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The RPCGB will conduct a day-long workshop on land use planning around potential premium transit stations in the Southwest Corridor along U.S. 11 on Wednesday, December 7. The location is being confirmed and will be announced shortly.

The purpose of the workshop is to interact with the public, community leaders, property owners, developers and members of the study working groups and get their inputs, insights and ideas about potential land use and development around five target station areas that would be served by new high-quality transit service being proposed for the study corridor. The five target areas are Five Points West, the Princeton Baptist Medical Center area, the Legion Field Area, Aronov Drive at US 11 (Western Hills Mall), and downtown Bessemer.

This station area planning workshop is part of a multi-faceted effort by the RPCGB and its study team to develop land use plans and strategies that will consider the transit station areas, neighborhoods, cargo-oriented development, and other plans that are being developed for the corridor cities and the unincorporated Jefferson County district at the south end of the corridor. By taking a comprehensive look at these different land use components, the goal is to formulate strategies to encourage corridor revitalization that covers the entire corridor. These land use strategies will be complemented by groups of strategies focused on transit improvements and economic development initiatives.

The study is charged with examining premium transit alternatives along a 22-mile long corridor that extends from downtown Birmingham to the Jefferson/Tuscaloosa County Line. While the study is focused on identifying the most practical transit service and alignment, it is also charged with exploring ways to leverage the corridor's land use and economic development potential - through transit investment and through other coordinated strategies. The study will devote significant effort in order to assess opportunities for reshaping communities and identifying retail, industrial, and residential reinvestment strategies.

For additional information, please visit the project website or contact Darrell L. Howard, project manager.

RPCGB Launches New Quarterly Video Digest

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On October 26, the RPCGB announced the launch of RPC-TV. This quarterly video digest highlights the many initiatives and activities of the RPCGB. The inaugural episode features stories on the RPCGB's involvement in tornado recovery, Blueprint Birmingham and the U.S. 11 Corridor Study.

"RPC-TV is a great opportunity for the citizens of this region to get a good overview of the many different projects that involve the RPCGB. Those that are interested can now spend a few minutes watching an episode and gain a better understanding of how the RPCGB is working to better all of our communities," said Greg Wingo, Public Affairs Officer.

RPCGB Adds Medicaid Waiver Program

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As of the beginning of October, the RPCGB is the new administrator of the Medicaid Waiver program in Jefferson County. This program is a home and community-based care (HCBC) program designed to provide services to the elderly and disabled to prevent premature institutionalization. Medicaid Waiver is a statewide program of the Alabama Department of Senior Services (ADSS) and the Alabama Medicaid Agency.

"All eleven other Regional Councils in the State of Alabama administer this program, so adding it to the RPCGB is a natural fit," said Charles Ball, Executive Director.

Individuals work with Medicaid Waiver program case managers to select services that best suit their needs, including:
Homemaker Services which provide assistance with general household activities such as meal preparation and routine housecleaning and tasks.
Personal Care Services which provide assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, caring for personal hygiene, toileting, transferring from bed to chair, ambulation, maintaining continence and other activities of daily living.
Adult Day Health a service that provides clients with a variety of health, social, recreational, and support activities in a supervised group setting.
Respite Care (Skilled and Unskilled) which provides to individuals unable to care for themselves and is furnished on a short-term basis.
Skilled Respite which provides skilled medical or nursing observation and services.
Unskilled Respite which provides and/or assists with activities of daily living and observations.
Adult Companion Services providing non-medical assistance, observation, supervision and socialization to a functionally impaired adult.
Home Delivered Meals which are provided to eligible individual age 21 or older that are unable to meet nutritional needs.

There is not an age requirement for the program, however a recipient must be financially eligible for Medicaid and meet the program's level-of-care criteria. To be eligible, a client's income must be less than 300% of the Federal Benefit rate and the client cannot have resources in excess of $2,000. Clients must exhibit the same disabilities and frailty for admission to a nursing home in Alabama as determined by their physician.

"Once the change was announced, the RPCGB welcomed the program with open arms and has provided so much support during the move. The move is a good thing for the program and our clients," said Bridget Phillips, Lead Case Manager.

For more information about the Medicaid Waiver program, please visit the Medicaid Waiver section of our website.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- A coalition of Jefferson County cities and nonprofits has applied for a $23 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that would help pay for the construction of a 33.6-mile regional greenway and trail network.
"If we were to win this grant, it would be a truly transformational," said Wendy Jackson, executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust. "This is much of what we've been working for for the past 15 years."

The grant process is highly competitive. Communities across the country are applying for the $527 million available through the federal grant program, a pool of money set aside for innovative projects that would have a significant economic impact on a metro area.

The proposed system of on-street improvements, converted railbeds, and streamside trails would link Railroad Park and Sloss Furnaces to Red Mountain Park. It would help rebuild roads and revitalize tornado-ravaged Pratt City and connect it through Ensley to Five Points West.
It would create a greenway along Valley Creek and another along an elevated high-line railroad. Together, they would connect the new Crossplex with Midfield, Fairfield and Red Mountain Park. Over in Shades Valley, it would help Homewood extend the Shades Creek Greenway and connect it to Red Mountain Park.

The application identifies close to $7 million in committed local match money, for a total project cost of just more than $30 million.
The application was submitted by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham. Jackson, whose organization helped prepare the application, said the grant would jumpstart and hook together an array of projects that have been developing for years.

Jackson said that, regardless of whether the region wins the grant, the application was an impressive testament to regional cooperation. In a constrained time frame, Birmingham, Homewood, Fairfield and Mildfield committed to the idea and helped develop the application, as did the Jefferson County Health Department, The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and the Red Mountain Park Commission.
The Alabama Department of Transportation also endorsed the plan along with congressional representatives and state legislators.
Letters of support

The application included letters of support from an array of corporate leaders and nonprofits. Even groups that often butt heads such as the Black Warrior River Keeper and the Business Alliance for Responsible Development signed letters of support.

The decision on the grant will be made quickly, in the early months of 2012. The City of Tuscaloosa also has applied, seeking $14 million to help construct a greenway through its tornado-damaged neighborhoods. In 2009, during the first round of applications for the federal money, only 4 percent of the proposals won grants.

Though competition will be fierce, the proposal is loaded with hooks to catch reviewers' attention.
It would direct more than $3.8 million to tornado-ravaged Pratt City, by rebuilding streets and improving sidewalks to link its parks to Ensley and the new Crossplex athletic facilities at Five Points West.

It has a downtown redevelopment component, with street improvements for walkers and bikers that would link Railroad Park and the proposed baseball park with Sloss Furnaces to the east and the civil rights district to the north.

Approaching the 50th anniversary of the historic events of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, the proposed trails and greenways would extend the system of historic walks from the Civil Rights Institute out to the Enon Ridge neighborhood, through areas where movement leaders lived and bombings occurred.

Health
For the sake of health, it would link the Health Department's new Western Health Center with a comprehensive trail system, including to Red Mountain Park. The application argues that recreational opportunities would aid the community in combating its high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

For the sake of safety, it would provide widespread accommodations and safety improvements for walkers and bikers. Birmingham ranks high nationally in pedestrian death and low on bike friendliness. The application argues that making walking and biking a more viable option through the trail system could help decrease traffic congestion and air pollution.

Money from the grant would vastly speed up the process of developing the 1,200-acre Red Mountain Park, located west of I-65 on the Red Mountain ridge. Included in the grant would be money to turn an abandoned high-line railroad, which runs from the park's border to Fairfield, into a pedestrian and bicycle greenway. It also would pay for a road entrance from Lakeshore Drive into the park property, solving an access problem that had delayed its development.

"It's a very strong application," said David Dionne, Red Mountain Park's executive director. "It may be one of the best I've ever seen for a federal grant."

Though the application was pulled together quickly, it includes detailed drawings and cost estimates on most segments because it brings together a multitude of projects that were being pursued individually.

That also made it easier to clearly identify local matching money for the project. The city of Homewood already had pledged $1.8 million to the Shades Creek Greenway Extension. Birmingham had committed $1 million in local match for the various projects within its bounds.
In addition, the Jefferson County Health Department is putting in $1 million it had reserved as part of its Western Health Center project. ALDOT committed $1 million for the reconstruction projects in Pratt City and $1 million for the entrance road to Red Mountain Park.

CSX Corp. has agreed to sell a portion of abandoned rail line at a $250,000 discount, in support of the numerous Pratt City residents who were current or retired CSX employees.

Nonprofits stepped forward, too. The Freshwater Land Trust committed $200,000; the Community Foundation, $371,600; and the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation, $40,000.

Jackson said the unusual coalition that was willing to pledge money toward the local match for the grant will earn the application points. Alabama's Republican leanings won't win the proposal extra credit in an election year. Then again, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell of Birmingham, who wrote a letter of support and in whose district many of the projects would be built, has political and personal connections to the Obamas.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is a fan of projects that take pedestrians and bike riders into account, and the secretary did visit Birmingham in the wake of the tornadoes and pledge his department's help in recovery efforts.

"I believe we have some unique circumstances to put us at the top," Jackson said.

Via AL.com

The EPA is recommending that the Birmingham area be declared as meeting federal air quality standards for fine particle pollution. The proposal was published today in the Federal Register.

Birmingham already has been designated as meeting air quality standards that guard against excessive daily spikes in particle and ozone pollution. Today's recommendation is to declare the area meets the annual standard for fine particle pollution, meaning that daily air quality readings averaged out over the year stay below the threshold considered unhealthy under the current standards.

"This is a huge milestone for the region and represents significant progress by the community in improving air quality over the past decade," said Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman.

However, federal officials are considering imposing stricter standards for air quality nationwide, at which point the Birmingham area could be forced to do even more to keep its air clean.

Via AL.com

U.S. 280 Corridor Study Public Workshop This Week

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You may be aware the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (RPCGB) has been conducting a study for the U.S. 280 Corridor to explore how improved public transit services can meet the needs of residents and businesses in the area. The study has looked at every community in the Corridor between Downtown Birmingham and Harpersville.

We recently completed the Alternatives Analysis portion of the study, and want to remind you of the many opportunities you still have to participate. The project website provides information regarding the progress of the study. The website also has a Project Surveys tab that allows you to complete on-line surveys about your travel patterns, travel needs, and preferences on transit services. In addition, you now have the opportunity to comment on the alternatives and potential funding sources.

The Project Team will host a second Public Workshop on Wednesday November 9, 2011 at the Marriot Hotel, 3590 Grandview Parkway, from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. This Public Workshop is open to everyone with an interest in the U.S. 280 Corridor Study wanting to receive project information and provide feedback. We really appreciate your interest in this study, and we look forward to using your continued feedback as we move forward.

Sincerely,
Charles Ball, Executive Director