By Blenda Copeland
The Phenix City Council has approved the purchase of at least 13 new personal body cameras of a different kind for the Phenix City Police Department — with room to buy additional cameras in the future.
The new body cams
The department has about 65 police personnel, and the body cameras the department is using are about five years old now, Police Chief Ray Smith told the Phenix City Council during its meeting Tuesday. Smith added that the average cost of a personal body camera can range from around $400 to $600.
At the council’s work session Monday, Smith explained the new body cameras come with a software licensing agreement.
The total cost of the new body cameras should be no more than $7,400.
In other highlights from the city council meeting Tuesday, the council also approved an extension of a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems for the city’s Red Light Safety Program. The program refers to the cameras that take your picture when you run a red light at any of the various intersections where the city has installed the equipment. The program, which is about five years old now, will be extended.
New speed signs
The city police chief updated the council on the program’s success, noting that the city also has bought speed signs that have been placed at various locations in the city. The digital signs flash your speed as you approach them. Smith told the council the signs are useful in curbing speeding, and they are also useful enhancements to the red light program as another safety layer.
Library’s 3-D printer
Also during the city council meeting, Council Member Vickey Carter Johnson noted that the Phenix City-Russell County Public Library unveiled on April 13 a new maker space featuring a 3-D printer.
Library Director Michele Kilday said the printer’s purchase was part of a grant received from the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) and a matching grant from the city.
For now, she said plans are to sign up classes of no more than 10 people for workshops geared at teaching the public how to use the new technology.
Workshops are also available for citizens to learn how to make various projects: a chain or a shark, for instance. Anyone can sign up for the workshop; you do not have to be a card-holding member of the library to participate. Kilday said it’s easier to use the 3-D printer than people may think.
Also, the library has a do-it-yourself tool kit that people can use to make crafts like a birdhouse, for example.
Salex Tax Holiday
Still, in other highlights, the council also approved the first reading in favor of supporting the state’s annual Back to School Sales Tax Holiday, which will occur July 20-22 on specific back-to-school type purchases that are specified as tax exempt that weekend, such as certain kinds of clothing and school supplies.
Lawsuit-spurring Ladonia property annexation approved
Further, the council also on Tuesday held a public hearing and approved the second reading of an ordinance to annex a 14-acre Ladonia property into a C-4 zone on U.S. Highway 80 West. The property is listed as owned by Girard Partners LP.
At the council’s work session Monday, the council discussed the lawsuit that was spurred by the proposed Ladonia Commercial Subdivision property’s proposed annexation. Russell County filed a lawsuit against the City of Phenix City in January over water and sewer jurisdiction rights that has now expanded to focus on the city’s reach of power in the Ladonia and Ft. Mitchell police jurisdiction areas.
According to Russell County Attorney Kenneth Funderburk, two additional amendments to the case have recently been filed.
In work session discussion Monday, Phenix City Attorney Jimmy Graham told the Phenix City Council in answer to Council Member Arthur Day’s question about a statute of limitations that there is a time limit of two years for someone to object to an annexation.
Graham said the case of the county versus the city is set for a December trial.
“We are working on a motion for summary judgment,” Graham told the council.
City Manager Wallace Hunter spoke at length on the matter, opining on the way he sees things. Regarding a past, published comment that the case could end up ascending to the Alabama Supreme Court, Hunter said the city has been faced with that before. He said going to the Supreme Court doesn’t scare him.
Regarding another comment in a different media outlet’s recent story that citizens wouldn’t be hurt if the property is made to fall under the county’s authority, Hunter said he didn’t understand that statement.
He also opined that, to him, it’s a matter of saying, “Now, we’re going to stop growth.”
Mayor Eddie Lowe also joined the conversation, saying that, “It will hurt. It will hurt everybody.”
Council Member Steve Bailey also joined the conversation, relaying his experience as a business owner and the related costs he has to pay; as did Assistant City Manager Steve Smith, who talked about various revenue percentages and how they’re designated to the county or city, etc.