City Council Meeting highlights

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By Blenda Copeland

City begins enforcing new grease traps law

The recent passage of the Sadie Grace Andrews Act, a new state law that requires stricter grease trap safety measures, is raising questions from local restaurants as they are learning about what they have to do to be in compliance.

The law came about after a Lee County toddler accidentally tumbled into a Lee County restaurant’s grease trap and died.

Phenix City’s Assistant City Manager Steve Smith said a big issue the city is finding is that local establishments have a grease trap installed, but it’s not being properly maintained. The problem with that is that it contributes to clogging the city’s lines with grease.

Smith said the city has been more aggressive on enforcing the rules since 2012.

Now, there’s the added issue of ensuring that the grease traps are properly lidded and secured. Smith said the city has already found establishments in violation.

“They’ve got to bring them (the grease traps) up to the current standards,” he said in answer to Council Member Steve Bailey’s question of what the business owners who’ve recently been inspected must do to resolve the problem.

The Phenix City Council discussed the issue at length at a recent work session.

City to spend up to $1.1 million on new A/C system

Phenix City is set to spend up to about $1.1 million on a newly designed air conditioning system for one of the most well-known and most-used buildings in the city: the Central Activity Center.

During a recent work session, it was discussed that while the system is needed and must be replaced, its unexpectedly high cost will impact the city’s budget next fiscal year.

“No one expected it to be this expensive,” City Engineer Angel Moore said, at the April 3 meeting. She said the $1.1 million is the maximum figure for the cost estimate. The estimated cost was necessary to help determine the 7.5 percent fee for the contractor, Peach Engineering, who will design the new HVAC system.

It was explained that the activity center’s system is old and needs to be built to meet modern-day standards. The building was reported to have been last renovated around 1997/1998, with the then-existing A/C system remaining in place. The activity center, now home to various activities for senior citizens and a venue where multiple meetings and city functions are often held, was at one point in the past the city’s high school.

“It is one of the most used facilities in the Phenix City,” said new Council Member Vickey Carter Johnson.

In warning about setbacks to the city’s planning for its upcoming fiscal year’s budget, Councilman Steve Bailey said the money to cover the $1.1 million A/C replacement will come from different places. “We never planned on having to spend this kind of money,” Bailey said. However, he said it must be done because the system requires it.

City fire rating changes, new firehouses and more staff are needed

Phenix City’s Insurance Service Office (ISO) fire rating has improved to 2/2x, according to discussion at a recent city council work session. City Manager Wallace Hunter likened the improvement to a drop in a person’s high blood pressure: it’s a good thing. “That’s a great achievement for the fire department,” he said of the fire rating, noting that the city still has other factors it needs to work on. Previously, the city’s ISO rating 3/3x, since 2001.