Council approves changes on public records policy

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By Toni Stauffer

The Council rescinded the public records policy adapted Oct. 18, 2005 and approved the adoption of a new policy, effective immediately to reflect minor changes in the existing fee schedule. The City recognizes and supports the public’s right to inspect and obtain copies of public records, and in accordance with the law, will provide records within the guidelines of the new policy.

Mayor Eddie Lowe said that the fees have always been in place and that “it’s a way for us to mitigate expenses.” He added that if someone wants to come in and look at the records, they can.

“We’re very transparent. We have nothing to hide, but when you start making copies, there’s a certain expense to that,” said Lowe. “It’s just business, like anywhere else where you have to pay for copies.”

Public records, as defined by Alabama code, is “all written, typed or printed books, papers, letters, documents and maps made or received in pursuance of law by the public officers of the state, counties, municipalities and other subdivisions of government in the transactions of public business and shall also include any record authorized to be made by any law of this state belonging or pertaining to any court of record or any other public record authorized by law or any paper, pleading, exhibit or other writing filed with, in or by any such court, office or officer.”

Records that are exempt from the public are records of library materials checked out (except for minors whose parents can request their records) and records regarding security of people and infrastructure. In Alabama, every citizen has the right to open records access.

All requests to review and/or inspect public records must be made in writing using the “Public Record Request” form which can be found on their website You can find the form by selecting the City Clerk link and then the Public Service link, or by doing a search.

To assure efficient processing, all City departments require payment of fees to defer costs associated with providing copies. While Alabama law doesn’t encourage the use of search fees, because the law is silent on the matter, it doesn’t prevent them either.

When requesting records, you are required to state your purpose as ruled by the Alabama Supreme Court (Holcombe v. State) and affirmed in 1991 (Blankenship v. City of Hoover); however, there aren’t any imposed limitations on use. As for when you get the records, the Alabama code doesn’t give a required time limit, only that the records must be surrendered once the fees have been paid.

Records fees:

Search fee (on all requests): $2.50

Paper copies: .50/page

Electronic documents $8 for each media unit (CD, flash drive, and e-mail), plus .10 per page provided in the media unit

Annexation Moratorium Extended

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Phenix City Council approved an extension by resolution to the annexation moratorium, originally approved in Dec. 2013, until Dec 31, 2018. The moratorium is placed on all annexations into Phenix City from Russell County and Lee County; however, the Council has reserved the right to grant exceptions if a proposed annexation would financially beneficial to the City. The moratorium can be revoked in part, or in full, at any time at the City’s discretion.

Landfill Expansion

In relation to the landfill expansion, the Council resolved to place a moratorium, effective immediately, for debris disposal by other government agencies and the public to extend the life of the landfill while the expansion is underway.

Additionally, the Council accepted the proposal by Highland Technical Services, Inc. to perform a hydrogeologic evaluation, threatened and endangered species survey and cultural survey, not to exceed the cost of $48,390.00. The testing is required by Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).

They also accepted a proposal by Municipal Consultants, Inc., not to exceed $96,000.00, for landfill permitting and design services.

Fire Stations

The Council authorized the filing of an application for a Homeland Security grant for the purpose of purchasing “physical protective measures for twenty-four-hour camera surveillance and access control equipment” for each fire station and the training center. If the funds are granted, the City will be required to pay the initial costs for the equipment and installation for full reimbursement by the State up to $43,461.00, the maximum amount of the grant, if awarded. This will give continuous monitoring for all fire station and training center buildings and parking lots.

Tax Abatements

In January of 2017, JVL Laboratories, Inc. received a tax abatement in January for a $3,070.000 project with an expected increase of 40 new jobs. That abatement was amended that February to accommodate the purchasing of manufacturing equipment and the increase of their capital investment to $4,500.000. JVL Labs then had a major addition to their facility that began in May with an investment of $4,000.000. The original completion date had been slated for Dec. 31, but was extended to December 2018 by the Alabama Department of Revenue per the company’s request. Unable to complete the project within the extended time frame, JVL Labs requested another extension to December 2019. The project was delayed due to the company acquiring two new large clients, Johnson & Johnson being one, which required a reworking of all outside equipment. Since the initial abatement in Jan. 2017, JVL Labs has grown from 116 positions to 199 positions, an increase of 83 jobs. The Council voted to grant the extension.

Road Improvements

The Council accepted a proposal from AECOM Technical Service, Inc. for construction and inspection services for the 5th Street South Resurfacing and Improvements project, not to exceed $222,048.00.

Parks and Recreation

A resolution authorizing and directing the Mayor and City Manager to enter into a contract with C&M Southern Midways for amusement rides for Christmas at Moon Lake on Dec. 8, was approved, not to exceed $10,000.00.