By John Brice
The LaFayette City Council met on Monday, August 14th of 2023 at the Chambers County Farmers Federation Agricultural Center at the ALFA building in LaFayette. In attendance were Mayor Kenneth Vines, Councilman Terry G. Mangram, Councilman David Ennis, Councilman Michael C. Ellis and Councilwoman Tammie B. Williams.. City Clerk Louis T. Davidson, City Attorney Joseph M. Tucker, Police Chief George Rampey, Fire & EMS Chief Jim Doody, Street, Sanitation and Cemetery Superintendent George Green, Wastewater Collection Superintendent Richard Chapman and Electric Superintendent Chris Sanders were also present.
Prior to the regular council meeting there was a public hearing regarding Violation of Ordinance No. 373 – Unsafe Structures which began with an invocation led by Chief Rampey.
Code Enforcement Officer Kim Langley initiated the hearing when he stated that the city had mailed five certified letters to the owners of unsafe structures in LaFayette and all five letters had been returned to sender as undeliverable. Overgrown properties and unsafe structures identified included: Quinton Holloway at 214 5th Avenue NW, Garey Mitchell and Martina Mitchell at 202 5th Avenue NW, James Wayne McCoy at 5th Avenue NW, Manriquez Leonardo Daniel Facio at 202 Alabama Avenue E and Shagay Dontale Zachery at 302 1 st Street SE.
Two Mitchell children, a brother and sister, who had inherited the property from their deceased parents were present at the meeting to represent themselves and their interest in retaining the structure.
Ms. Mitchell disputed the city’s determination that the house is not in livable condition, arguing that the roof, ceilings and floors are in stable condition. She asserted that the carpet and windows were in fact in the process of being replaced, walls are being painted and that she had arranged for a landscaper to cut the grass in June but a city employee had intervened and told the landscaper that the house was being torn down.
Councilman Ennis emphasized that the exterior of the house is dilapidated, and it is important how the structure appears from the road to which Langley added that neighbors have been complaining about broken windows and busted doors left wide open. Attorney Tucker instructed the Mitchells on the critical need for them to keep Langley and Superintendent Green updated regularly on their efforts to renovate the home, that the house needs to be brought up to code with a building plan related to a building permit issued by the city and demonstrable progress needs to be shown in order to avoid demolition. Councilman Ellis notified the Mitchells that they had 30 days to present a building plan and the public hearing was adjourned.
First up on the agenda for the regular meeting was an ovarian and gynecologic cancer proclamation requested by EAMC oncology nurse Linda Parker. Mrs. Parker noted that in 2023 one hundred and six thousand women in the U.S. were expected to be diagnosed with the disease and that up to thirty-two thousand will likely die. Chambers County has the highest number of GYN cancer diagnoses in Alabama and early detection is key, as well as relevant information being distributed through the media. To get the word out Parker would like for teal ribbons to be hung downtown along with the proclamation and the motion was approved.
Next up was a discussion on the city’s dog ordinance led by community leader Adrian Holloway. Holloway explained that the current ordinance offers more protection for animals than humans and that there have been several instances this summer where unrestrained dogs have threatened residents. Recounting her own harrowing recent experience, Holloway remarked how a pit bull aggressively came into her yard while her children were playing and frightened them as well as a local teenager who had been chased by a pit bull in the neighborhood from which he was luckily able to escape.
Additional worrisome examples included a neighbor who as a mother with young children was chased back into her home by a vicious dog while merely trying to enter the vehicle in her driveway as well as an LPD officer who had responded and that dog subsequently bit the officer’s pant leg, fortunately without causing injury. Holloway urged the council to review, revise and adopt a new ordinance with stiffer penalties for violators.
Councilwoman Williams lamented that she has been complaining for fifteen years regarding this grave concern for residents and nothing substantive has been done, worrying that somebody is likely to be maimed or killed. She clarified that the community loves their animals, however, they also love their families and Williams sincerely hopes that the council does something to neutralize the threat to which Ennis and Mangram concurred that higher penalties for infractions need to be charged to irresponsible dog owners.
Further discussions included a proposed meeting between the council and an architect regarding designs for a new city hall, safety training for city employees and recreation board nominations. Motions were approved to admit liability and pay a settlement for a claim by Mr. Willie C. Williams, to deny a claim by Ms. Angie Mangram and refer it to the city’s insurance company and to seek bids for chemical supplies needed by the city’s water and wastewater plants. Resolution No. 2023-08-14-01 known as the Rebuild Alabama Transportation Plan and the resolutions to demolish four of the unsafe structures excluding the Mitchell property were both approved by roll call votes and the meeting was adjourned.