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Chamber gets city’s backing on grant work

After delaying a decision two weeks ago, Brookhaven aldermenTuesday unanimously approved an application to seek a $250,000Small Municipalities grant on behalf of the chamber of commerce forimprovements to its building.

The board tabled the request at its June 4 meeting after MayorBill Godbold said it needed more study and expressed concerns aboutthe possibility of the city having too much meeting space aftersome other projects are completed. He mentioned the Multi-UseFacility, the proposed Intermodal Facility and plans for a new cityhall.

Tuesday night, chamber Executive Vice-president Chandler Russsaid he had since done a better job of communicating plans for thegrant, which will be used to help renovate the chamber building asa mini-conference center. The board then approved the grantapplication with little discussion.

After last night’s meeting, Godbold said the chamber needs agood building and indicated the grant would help accomplishthat.

“That building is run down and should be improved so it canaccommodate everybody,” Godbold said. “That’s what we want them todo.”

Russ said the grant will be used to help the shore up the oldcity fire department area behind the chamber and and make thebuilding handicap accessible. The work is part of an estimated$800,000 project to renovate the chamber building as a conferencecenter.

There is no fund matching requirement on behalf of the city, butthe chamber must apply for the grant through the city. Russ saidgrants are only available to cities with populations under10,000.

Russ said he was pleased the mayor and board chose to go forwardwith the worthy project. He said officials had received positiveindications that the application would be funded, but that was notcertain.

“We feel good about our chances with the grant, but it is on acompetitive basis,” Russ said. “We’re going to do what we can toget it funded.”

INDUSTRIAL UPDATE

In other chamber-related activity, aldermen approved EngineeringAssociates to do a study an recommend one of six sites for a newindustrial park. Russ said the firm scored 575 out of a possible600 points, while the other four firms that submitted proposalsscored in the 300s or less.

Russ said the study sites range from 600 to 1,500 acres.Officials will meet later month to develop a contract for the studyto be done.

DOWNTOWN WORK

Also Tuesday, several city officials commented on last week’smeeting with downtown business owners to discuss an upcomingWhitworth fire loop project. City Attorney Joe Fernald said theThursday gathering was “a good example of democracy at work.”

Alderman at large Les Bumgarner, the only member of the board toattend, said it was a good meeting and a chance to clear up somemisconceptions about the project. He said there was a perceptionthat the project would close downtown streets for five months, butthat was not the case.

“Once everybody got the facts and calmed down, it waswell-received,” Bumgarner said about the project and the meeting.”I’m glad we had it.”

Fernald urged the board to get started quickly to determine howthe work time table will be publicized. Crews are expected to goblock by block, closing each block during to traffic for about fivedays, and start on South Jackson Street on July 15.

Godbold suggested citizens could call his office if they havequestions about the project when it starts.

The mayor said there could be a designated time for the projectengineer to return calls. Fernald said he would have to contactEngineering Associates to see how much that service would cost thecity.

Bumgarner said “on the spot answers” for citizens would nothappen.

“We can get the information and get back with them,” Bumgarnersaid.

In other action during the brief regular meeting, BrookhavenFire Chief Paul Cartwright informed the board that the departmenthas started putting reflector tape on fire hydrants around thecity. He said the tape will make the hydrants easier to spot atnight.

PERSONNEL ISSUES

Finally last night, the mayor and aldermen met with citydepartment heads for over an hour in executive sessions to discusspersonnel employment issues.

Following the session, the board voted to reaffirm a policy thatdepartment heads could recommend termination of an employee and theboard would support the decision provided there is gooddocumentation of reasons for termination.

The policy was adopted four years ago in response to employeesgoing directly to aldermen with employment concerns rather thanthrough their supervisor. Fernald said the new board had not actedon that policy and needed to make its position clear.

Godbold said the action was needed in response to the”lackadaisical attitude” of some city employees.

“For the most part, we’ve got good employees working for thecity,” Godbold said. “But we’ve got a few who’ve got only twopoints of view: quitting time and pay time.”