09/21/11 — Crossings, cleanup on city agenda

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Crossings, cleanup on city agenda

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on September 21, 2011 1:46 PM

A short presentation on railroad crossing closings highlighted the City Council's work session Monday night as Planning Director Randy Guthrie briefed the council members in advance of a meeting for the public scheduled for Thursday.

An informational workshop on the traffic separation study will be held at Wayne High Academy on Lionel Street at 5 p.m. Thursday to facilitate discussion between Department of Transportation officials and the public.

Guthrie said his presentation to the council was a "quick overview" of what the study suggested, including the proposed closings of Bryant, Bain and Lionel streets where they cross over the railroad tracks that run parallel to Royall Avenue.

Guthrie said he didn't anticipate the DOT actually closing all three, but said that the department would likely seek to close at least two of the three roads at the crossings.

He said formalized plans could be expected in November or December.

In other business, Finance Director Kaye Scott informed the council that the city had been declared eligible for FEMA cleanup assistance last week and that the bid process had begun to find contractors to help finish the cleanup. She said bids went out Monday and would be opened at 2 p.m. today.

A resolution presented will allow the city to move forward with the lowest bid if it comes in at less than $90,000. Mrs. Scott and Public Works Director Neil Bartlett said they expected the contracts to come in far less than that total.

FEMA will likely reimburse the city for the cleanup efforts, Mrs. Scott said, but the city cannot include any mention of the reimbursement efforts into contracts.

FEMA also determined that overtime hours would be paid to Public Works employees, Bartlett said, so his crews have been working overtime and on Saturdays to collect debris.

Bartlett said he anticipated that by the beginning of next week, his crews should have been through every part of the city at least once.

He said a crew should move to the Salem Church Road area and into Fallingbrook later this week. Little Washington, which District 1 Councilman Michael Headen said looked like a war zone, will be reached today or Thursday, Bartlett said, and Hunter Street residents can expect cleanup crews to arrive Thursday.

An item from a previous council meeting was recalled during the work session as Ernest Waters, the developer of Tiffany Gardens, asked the council to reconsider his rezoning request that was approved at the Sept. 6 meeting.

Waters had wanted to continue the usage of 20-foot-wide roads in his expansion of his property, but the council opted at the meeting to require 27-foot-wide roads -- the most narrow width of roads maintained by the city.

Waters asked for his request to be reconsidered with his narrower roads intact, and during the work session, the council moved to allow the roads to be 22 feet wide, the width the city allows for rural roads.

Absent from the work session, Waters spoke at the public comment period and explained why he wanted the exemption, telling the council that the cost associated with the wider road was enough to convince him not to expand.

"If you can't cut me no slack, I just won't do it," Waters said.

Following his comment period, Mayor Al King informed Waters that his second request had been considered during the work session and instructed Guthrie to explain what had been decided to him.

Eyeing departmental reports, District 6 Councilman Jackie Warrick questioned Human Resources Director Faye Reeves about vacancies that had been filled, which he thought were in violation of the city's agreed upon hiring freeze.

Mrs. Reeves explained that those positions had been internal promotions of city employees, noting that they had not added any positions.

The city currently has frozen 14 positions from last fiscal year and its budget provides for an additional $524,970 in attrition. Department heads are already asked to delay advertising vacancies for a month to help realize that total, at which point a decision is made at the staff level as to whether that position should be filled or not.

"My preference is to let us hire who we want to hire," City Manager Scott Stevens said. "We're going to be strict with hiring."

But Mayor Pro-tem Church Allen wants the council to be involved in those decisions.

"I don't know about (the other council members) but I want to know about every hire," he said.

Allen also said it would be helpful to know how much attrition had been accrued on a monthly basis, to which Mrs. Scott noted that she tracks that every month.

The council did tell Stevens to proceed with the hiring of the city's public information officer, a new position created this fiscal year and to fill the police chief vacancy which has been filled by Jeff Stewart since Tim Bell retired March 1.

In other business, no one spoke on the city's use of Community Development Block Grant and Home Investment Partnership funds or the Wayne County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan. Both were passed at the meeting, along with the awarding of a contract for the repainting of the Madison Avenue water storage tank.

Utility Service Company from Georgia submitted the winning low bid at $372,000.

Anderson said the hired company will strip down the tank's walls on the interior and exterior and use a primer that contains zinc to deter rust, followed by two coats of paint and another coating on the seams to prevent oxidation.

Anderson said the system is supposed to last 15 years, but he hopes the city won't wait that long to paint it again.

The council also acknowledged a formal protest of the Franklin Baking Co.'s rezoning request, which means that six of the seven voting members of the council must approve of the request for it to be granted. The rezoning of the company's land at the intersection of West Holly and North Virginia streets, which reportedly might be for expansion to a regional distribution center.