PIEDMONT – At the conclusion of its regularly-scheduled meeting Tuesday, Piedmont City Clerk Michelle Franklin announced her intention to retire, effective Oct. 1. Franklin has served the City of Piedmont for 30 years.
“This is tough decision for me and an emotional decision, but after much deliberation and input from my family, I have made the decision to retire as city clerk/treasurer/personnel director for the City of Piedmont,” Franklin said. “I’ve enjoyed my 30 years of service with the city and wish all the best for a great city in the future. I leave this position knowing it has been a privilege to serve the citizens of Piedmont and all its employees, but the time has come to move on to the next chapter in my life as I become more involved with my family business.
“There are ups and downs in every job, but I’ve made a lot of good friends, some like family. I’ll never forget all the memories I’ve had here, good and bad, but I believe it’s time to move on. I thank you all.”
Mayor Bill Baker thanked Franklin for her years of service.
“Thirty years of service is a long time,” he said. “I’ve worked with Michelle in that office on a daily basis for a lot of years as mayor, and I appreciate what she’s done. Michelle, we’re going to miss you.”
In its work session, the council heard from Piedmont Fire Chief Mike Ledbetter. Ledbetter introduced two newly-hired firemen in Rhett Burdette and Ethan Floyd.
“These two guys are full of energy. They’ve got a lot of drive. They love to train,” Ledbetter said. “If they continue on this path, they’re going to be an asset to the department in the coming years.”
Ledbetter then presented the council with options concerning an upgraded system and new radios for the fire and police departments.
“Basically we have two options,” Ledbetter said. “Option 1 would have two parts. If we stayed with the VHF band we have now, we would need to buy a two-user console, which is similar to what all the other departments are operating on. This two-user console would cost between $140-150,000. We can take it, plug it in to the Spillman programming that’s already in the building, and we can use the programming and the software free of charge.
“We would still be using the same radios like we carry on our sides, like we have in the trucks. We would just have a new console. The two repeaters we just ordered, all of that would be the same. The first financing line shows you financing if you wanted to go through MCA (Mobile Communications America). They offer financing right off the bat.
“The next part of option 1, if we did not go with a 700-800 (MHz) radio system, MCA strongly suggests we buy some portable radios for fire and police so that we would be able to communicate with other departments. We are the only city in Calhoun or Cherokee County that is not on a 700 or 800 megahertz system. I priced four apiece for the fire and police, four for each department. If we do mutual aid with another department on a fire, we can contact them. We would have to pay $140-150,000 for the console. The eight radios would be $41,600. That’s if we stay with VHF, buy the console, and buy some walkie talkies.
“If we want to move into the 21st century, and we want to do a complete radio system upgrade and go to the 700-800 megahertz system, we would purchase a two-user unit. What that basically means is if you’ve got two people in dispatch, both people can be sitting there taking calls. They’re entering information by computer. You can pick up on the other person’s call if you need to. You’re looking at the same information as they are. It’s no longer having to write it on pencil and paper and look over somebody’s shoulder. Each person can operate from their own console.”
Ledbetter said he’d personally like for the council to purchase the 700-800 MHz system. He also said he’s spoken with a couple of people concerning grants.
During the regular meeting, Franklin spoke to the council regarding a proposal for dumpsters – 10 four-yard, 10 six-yard, and eight rear-load containers. Franklin said the grand total for the dumpsters is $45,260.
“Right now we are out of dumpsters. We need to make this purchase,” she said.
“It is a dire need,” he said. “I would encourage you (council members) between now and the next council meeting to talk with (City Projects Manager) Carl (Hinton) to see what additional information he can share with you. I’ll ask Michelle to put this on the agenda for the next meeting. We can make a decision at that point.”
Piedmont Interim Police Chief Nathan Johnson gave reports on the police department, abatement, and animal control for the month of June.
Johnson said his department made nine felony arrests, 18 misdemeanor arrests, and one DUI arrest. Out of all those arrests, 21 were drug related. There were three crimes against persons, zero theft arrests, 15 court warrant arrests and 12 arrests for other agencies.
On traffic, 38 citations were written. There were eight traffic accidents and 24 motorist assists.
On crimes reported through investigations, there was one violent crime, two burglaries, two thefts, and a total of 15 cases investigated. Out of those cases, there were nine incident reports taken.
In dispatch, there were 291 calls for service and 768 officer initiated. There were 1,083 total contacts with the public, which includes motorist assists. The amount of miles patrolled during the month was 8,778 miles.
There were 568 rescue calls dispatched, including 36 fire department calls. The total number of calls to the communications center was 2,157.
Court collections were in the amount of $20,240.50.
On abatement for the month, there were 45 total cases, including six new cases, 30 old cases being worked, eight cases completed, one contract on structure, three court appearances, and two verbal contacts.
In animal control, there were seven calls for service. Nineteen animals were picked up, with five taken to the shelter and 14 reclaimed by the owner.
Speaking of animals, Piedmont resident Misty Shell approached the council about an elusive dog that killed her own pet. She showed the council pictures of the attack on her dog.
“The problem I’ve got is this dog has been loose since November,” Shell began. “The animal control officer was contacted on Nov. 18 that this dog had attacked a cat. He tried to help the owner of the dog and catch him when she moved. When he was contacted in November, this shouldn’t have stopped just because he couldn’t catch it. We’re at the end of July now, the first of August, and this dog is still running loose. You see what he did to my dog. That’s not OK. My thing is what if this would have been my grandbaby. Somebody needs to be held responsible bottom line.”
Johnson said his officers have been on the lookout for the animal.
“This dog is so elusive. You’re not going to be able to catch it,” Johnson said. “I’ve had officers riding on patrol with catch poles in their cars, just trying to get this dog. We’ve exhausted some resources in trying to get it. Right now I’m working with one of the local vets in the area to try to do something else to try and get this dog caught so the issues will get resolved.”
Baker spoke with Shell about the situation and promised her the animal would be captured.
“We’re going to get this dog,” he said. “We’re going to get the equipment we need to tranquilize this dog, whatever it takes. We can’t have this.”
In other business Tuesday evening, minutes from the previous meeting and bills for payment in the amount of $578,178.74 were approved.
The council also adopted a comprehensive plan for the city for the next 10 years. The plan includes topics such as population, environmental features, land use and development, transportation, community facilities, housing, economy, the trail loop, strategic planning, goals and objectives.
The council also approved a resolution on advanced utility metering with the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority (AMEA).
“This is dealing with electricity only,” Baker said. “This is already paid for by savings we have with AMEA. It’s about a half a million dollar project. We are part of 11 cities that work with AMEA. Most of the other sister cities have already gotten involved with this metering system. It’s recommended we do the same thing.
“It would be all new electrical meters throughout the city. Every Piedmont city customer would have a new meter. You could look at your bill and tell what your bill is in the middle of the month. If you see you’re using too much electricity and you needed to back down, you have the capabilities of doing so. It’s really a pretty neat program.”
Johnson approached the council about ordering seven new ballistic police vests for department officers. He quoted the price at $5,637.64.
Johnson also invited the council to a law enforcement critical training incident to be held Aug. 2-3 at Piedmont High School. He said the event will be a full-scale mock up that includes Piedmont Police Department, Piedmont Fire Department and Piedmont Rescue Department, in addition to other agencies. Baker said the training will not be open to the public.
The training incident happens to fall on a night (Aug. 3) in which the council was supposed to meet, but the council approved moving that meeting to Aug. 31 so it could be involved with the training.
The final item approved by the council Tuesday evening was allowing Jason Hardin of the East Alabama Planning Commission to pursue a $40,000 grant for lighting at the Piedmont Sports Complex. Hardin spoke with council during its work session about the particulars of the grant.
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