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Alamo Commissioners Consider Building New City Hall and Old Recreation Center Upgrades

The City of Alamo is considering a number of large projects in the coming year, including the construction of a new City Hall and a complete overhaul of the old recreation department baseball field and court.

At the council’s September 21 session Councilman Bobby Cox discussed the possibility of renovating the current City Hall. There would need to be some roof patching, but Cox brought up the idea of adding a new council chamber onto the old building and moving the Police Department into the old council chamber.

The current Police Department, which is next door to City Hall, could be used as office space for City Manager Jeff Floyd. There was also some discus- continued from page

sion devoted to an entirely new location for City Hall, specifically, a city-owned building adjacent to City Hall which, once renovated, would allow for a larger municipal building.

Plans already exist for turning the larger structure into a new city complex with multiple functions. While roof work is needed on this structure, that issue could be addressed by building a shell roof over the property. The larger space would allow the city adequate room for all city files, office space for city personnel, and a new council chamber. After some discussion about the potential price of such a project, an estimated $250,000, it was decided that the city would look into allocating funds for the project in FY 2021.

The Council also discussed possible renovations to the old recreation department located on East Railroad Street. A project advocated by Councilman Dr. Deondre Geter, the renovations would include a complete overhaul of the existing baseball field and basketball court, a new fence around the entire property, a new concession stand and learning center, and a nature trail through the woods extending back to the railroad.

W.B.M. Construction, Inc. submitted an estimate of $785,700 for the renovation. Geter is currently pursuing a grant through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources that would cover half of the renovation cost with a 50% match from the city. During the council meeting on Monday night, Geter expressed some concern with the length of the grant process and asked for the Council’s blessing to pursue quotes on a smaller project at the property. “This could take a year or two, and I want to see something done now,” Geter remarked.

This new, phased approach would allow work on sections of the park while funding for the project as a whole is still being processed. The first phase includes renovating the concrete basketball court that has been closed since March due to COVID- 19 restrictions. Geter will pursue an estimate for resurfacing the court, getting new basketball goals, and building a 10-foot fence around the court. The Council will then look at the project's feasibility within the budget and collect bids from contractors.

City Manager Floyd brought up the idea of contacting an organization like Project Backboard, a nonprofi t group that renovates city basketball courts, to complete the project. The Council also discussed the need for a community survey to gather feedback about the project. The survey will be provided to Alamo citizens during the planned Customer Appreciation Day on October 9.

Floyd also gave an update on the $173,289.76 CARES Act reimbursement that the city recently received. Original information concerning the COVID reimbursement package came in a called meeting on September 14.

The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March, provides funds to county and city governments for COVID-19 related expenses. The city has allocated $66,800 of reimbursement for the purchase of two F-150 pickup trucks. One truck will be used by the City Grounds Department while the other will be entered into service as a Police Department vehicle.

The city also purchased iPads and laptops for city workers and police officers to be utilized during socially-distanced work and to mitigate common touch areas. Funds were also used to provide an extra on-duty police officer during weekend hours for three months; extra part-time city workers; and hazard pay for city employees. Full-time city and police department employees received a $1,500 hazard pay bonus and parttime employees received a $750 hazard pay bonus. Also, the city purchased $7,500 worth of masks and sanitation supplies for Alamo citizens. These supplies will be handed out to each household on October 9 during the Customer Appreciation Day festivities.

Floyd also announced that the Glenwood Telephone Company (GTC) will start breaking ground on a new project to provide internet service to Alamo. According to Jim O’Brien, Vice President at Glenwood Telephone Company, the timeline to begin working in Alamo is somewhere around 10 to 12 weeks. Though the project may face some disruptions due to material shortages, a nationwide problem in the COVID-19 era, GTC has already closed on property in Alamo that will be used as a base of operations and will seek funding through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction scheduled in October. The RDOF is an FCC program designed to bridge the gap between broadband providers and underserved or unserved citizens in rural areas. Some $20.4 billion has been set aside for the project. GTC will be bidding to receive a portion of those funds for this project.

The lack of reliable internet access in Wheeler County has been highlighted by distance learning and “work from home” scenarios during the COVID-19 crisis, with some estimates indicating that only 25% of Wheeler County citizens have access to adequate (defined as internet speeds of 10Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload) broadband internet coverage. GTC is currently working on a similar project in Mount Vernon.

The Council also spent a significant amount of time discussing traffic problems in the city limits. Chief Roger Bryant reminded citizens that they must come to a complete stop at the red light before “turning right on red.” He also addressed the dangers associated with “passing on the right” before making a righthand turn on red. Although Alamo citizens have used the wide lane in front of City Hall to turn right for many years, there is no turn lane at present. To go around a car stopped in the right lane, squeezing between the car and the curb to make a right turn when there is no turn lane is illegal, Bryant advised. The Council asked Bryant if the problem could be addressed by adding a right turn lane in front of City Hall. According to Bryant, there is not enough room for two lanes because of DOT standards.

Geter also brought up the ineffectiveness of speed bumps that were placed on Cherry Street earlier this year. “People go over them like they aren’t even there,” Geter said. The Council decided to place higher speed bumps on Cherry Street and to look into placing speed bumps on East Railroad Street in order to address speeding problems there. Although it is located near the high school, East Railroad Street cannot be placed under the city’s radar license because of the span between the road’s beginning and end. According to Bryant, you have to have 600 feet of space in order to obtain DOT permission to use radar on a roadway. Bryant advised that speed bumps would be a deterrent to speeders going through the area. The Council discussed the cost of removing limbs and leaves from the city this year. Because of a higher than average pecan yield and an increase in limbs breaking, the city has spent $20,500 in labor and disposal of leaves and limbs this year. The city only charges $1 per month for each household for limb and leaf disposal, a figure that may have to be re-addressed if such costs persist.

The city also approved $2,755 in funding for replacement of LED lights on Fire Engine #1. The funds will come from the city’s SPLOST account.

The Council also approved dates for Trunk-or-Treat and Christmas-in-the City/Christmas parade. Trunk-or-Treat will be held on October 31, from 6 until 8 p.m. Christmas-in-the-City festivities will be held on December 5. The all-day event will end with the Christmas Parade after dark. Social distancing will be recommended at each of these events.

The next city council meeting will be held on October 19, at 6 p.m. in the Alamo Community Center.

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