North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

February 18, 2014

Fultondale gas board won't renew current contract with Gardendale

Architects unveil plans for new city hall

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

GARDENDALE — A notice that the Gas Board of the City of Fultondale won’t renew its current service contract with Gardendale has sent city officials scrambling for other options.

The gas board notified the city that it will not enter into another contract — at least not under the current terms — when the current one expires on April 1, city attorney Ken Thompson told the city council in its regular session Monday night.

The contract currently in place calls for Gardendale customers to be charged no more than 2.5 percent above the rates charged to similar customers by Ala­gasco. The board also pays 5 percent of gross receipts in various fees.

(The 2.5 percent cap is at the center of a lawsuit against the board by two customers, including onetime Fultondale mayoral candidate John Douglas. The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, claims that the board has exceeded the capped amount in the rates charged to Gardendale customers.)

Mayor Othell Phillips said that the gas board wants the cap removed entirely, and the fees reduced to 3 percent.

After a lengthy discussion in the pre-council work session, the council passed a resolution that authorized Phillips to issue a request for proposal for qualified suppliers to submit their own plans for supplying Gardendale with natural gas service. That would include the Fultondale Gas Board, whose biggest customer base is the city of Gardendale.

The magnitude of changing the city’s gas supplier, coupled with the logistics of determining who owns gas lines that supply customers, wasn’t lost on councilor Greg Colvert.

“We don’t know the consequences of what we’re about to do,” he said in the work session.

Companies will have 30 days to respond to the request for proposal.

The council also saw architectural plans for the new city hall, which will be built on Main Street.

Jay Pigford of Architecture Works showed an artist’s rendering of the building exterior. as well as floor and site plans.

The new building will also have an office for the Gardendale Chamber of Commerce.

“This will be a one-stop shop — people can get their permits and licenses, and do their Chamber business all in one place. They currently have to go to three separate buildings scattered all over town,” Phillips said.

The building would be highlighted by an entry tower, through which visitors would pass on their way to a lobby, which leads to offices and a council chamber.

The building includes 14,175 square feet of interior space, plus another 1,300 square feet of patios.

The site will include walking paths and bridges over a waterway; the path would be a continuation of the walking trail that is in place around the Gardendale Civic Center.

The cost will be around $3 million, part of which will be offset by a federal grant of about $600,000 to reconfigure sidewalks for use as part of the trail. “The money is in the bank,” Phillips said.

Construction could begin as early as April, and the new city hall could be open within a year, Phillips added.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a planned unit development master plan for Fieldstown Crossing, a 60-home development off of Shady Grove Road;

• Extended for an additional year the rezoning of property on Fieldstown Road near Waffle House, as requested by developer McAdam Properties;

• Heard from Joe Cochran, a Pinson city councilor who is a candidate for the state Senate seat being vacated by Scott Beason;

• Hired Elijah Brigham as a new officer with the Gardendale Police Department.