Modular bldgs. stir concerns among board

Published 7:08 pm Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A quick care clinic in a modular building set to be put in theLincoln Plaza parking lot is a source of chagrin and the cause of acoming work session for the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen.

Aldermen said while they cannot stop the Family Health Care Clinicfrom being placed in the parking lot, they want to find a way tokeep similar situations from occurring in the future.

Ward Five Aldermen D.W. Maxwell said he had heard severalcomplaints about the building going up, and that the board neededto find a way to block further modular buildings in areas wherethey were incompatible with the current architecture.

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Mayor Les Bumgarner said part of the problem is that currentordinances don’t cover the situation exactly.

“He had already made his request, and anything we do after that isex post facto,” he said. “I felt like our hands were tied, andwe’re just trying to handle it because we don’t have anything inwriting.”

City Building Inspector Chip Gennaro said the building will be”landscaped” with planters all around the building.

Aldermen agreed to put a six-month moratorium on further modularand mobile units in commercial districts.

“There are some holes in these ordinances that we need to getplugged, we just haven’t plugged them quick enough,” said Ward SixAlderman David Phillips. “We spent 18 months on our comprehensiveplan, and we still need to say that we don’t want modular housingwith the wheels still on in our central business district.”

The board agreed on the moratorium, with City Attorney Joe Fernaldadding that it can be renewed in six months if the city is showingprogress toward an ordinance. They also set a work session to beheld at the end of the month for “plugging holes” in ordinancesdealing with units that are incompatible with theirdistricts.

Meanwhile, the subject of park bathrooms raised its ugly headagain.

City officials have struggled with trying to find an affordable wayto put restrooms in Bethel and Bicentennial Parks. However, theyhave had a hard time reconciling bids with budgetconstraints.

Bumgarner told the board that Brookhaven Recreation DepartmentDirector Terry Reid had located bids on the bathrooms for around$24,000 each, which is the lowest that has come in so far.

“We don’t have that money in the budget for both of these,” hesaid. “We’ve got $15,000 a piece, so we could conceivably do onenow and one for the next budget.”

Maxwell said he thought they should be bid out as separate projectsso that independent contractors could possibly be brought in to dothem for less than $15,000 a piece, but City Clerk Mike Jinks saidthere are laws that govern which projects have to be bid out.

“If the auditing department thinks you’re splitting bids to dodgeprice laws, they’ll come after you,” he said.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron said he would be willing to letthe first set of restrooms go to Bethel Park, and that he would behappy to wait until next year to have them added to BicentennialPark.

“This is a big improvement from the last time we had a bid, so Imake a motion that we do it,” he said. “Let’s do this and get onebuilt, and I have no problem waiting for the next.”

The motion passed by a vote of 6-1, with Maxwell voting againstit.

In other construction news, Bumgarner told the board that theassisted living facility set to be built on Monticello Streetacross from the Inez Hotel overcame yet another hurdle.

Builder Gayle Evans has run into snag after snag in his dream toput up an assisted living home in downtown Brookhaven, and hadfinally purchased some property and was ready to get started. Butstate officials said the proximity to the railroad tracks wouldprohibit him from putting the facility in the location he hadpurchased, Bumgarner said.

“Becky Currie, our representative, who is also a nurse, went withhim to a meeting today, and he’s been approved to go on withconstruction,” Bumgarner said. “They were worried about the noise… we didn’t realize the railroad was a problem until they camdown to see it, so we got some people together and I wrote them aletter and the meeting was a success.”

Bumgarner said he had informed state officials in his letter thatBrookhaven is interested in becoming a quiet zone for the trains,but admitted that there are liabilities involved with being a quietzone.

“It shifts the liability to the city if you have an accident,” hesaid. “Right now if the train people blow those horns and you getout in front of it, that’s your fault.”