The city of Athens is moving ever eastward. Monday night the City Council approved the annexation of a total 107 acres at the requests of Newby Family Limited Partnership and Mohammad Nasser Amiri and Almond Associates LLC.
Both properties are south of U.S. 72 East. The Newby property, consisting of 58 acres, fronts on Mooresville Road. In a separate zoning request, the council approved zoning the Newby property to R-1-1, low-density housing.
The request from Amiri and Almond consists of 49 acres with an associated zoning request of B-3, highway business district. A portion of the property fronts U.S. 72 East on which the LLC already has constructed and owns and operates an Exxon gas station.
City Planner Mac Martin said the Athens Planning Commission had unanimously approved the annexation and zoning request, but the city sent a letter to Amiri and Almond with stipulations.
“Our correspondence with them said there were a couple of things we wanted them to address,” said Martin. “One was the consolidation of the property to development and to place a fire hydrant within 500 feet. We got word from the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority that they had been in contact with Amiri and Almond and they had agreed to pay $36,000 to have the hydrant installed, so our department recommends the city go forward with their request.”
Martin said that there are “no plans in stone” for the Amiri and Almond property. “They already have the Exxon station and sewer there so it follows that they would develop it for commercial interests.”
City staffing requests
The council approved resolutions to revise of the organizational structure of two departments – Public Works and Electric – but by a slim margin as two councilmen voted against the measures.
The requests involved position upgrades and the hiring of additional personnel. Councilmen James Hickman and Harold Wales voted against the requests.
The first Public Works request involved an upgrade of City Planner Mac Martin’s job from a classified Grade 11 to an Unclassified Manager I position. Council President Jimmy Gill said Martin now makes $42,000 at a Grade 11, but the reclassification would place him in the salary range of $57,000 to $64,000.
The second request from the Electric Department was to upgrade the Grade 10 Right of Way Specialist to a Grade 11 Right of Way Supervisor. Again, that measure passed on a 3-2 vote with Wales and Hickman voting against it.
The third request came from the Public Works Department wanting to add a job description for a Grade 9 Sanitation Crew Leader. The council passed the resolution on a 3-2 vote.
Hickman clarified his reason for voting against all three requests.
“The reason I’m not voting is because these decisions should wait for the next council,” said Hickman.
The new council will be seated November 5. Hickman was defeated by challenger Joseph Cannon.
Gill had said that the positions were included in the 2013 budget, which the council unanimously approved in Monday night’s meeting so he didn’t see why the two dissenting councilmen, who approved the budgets, had problems with the requests.
However, Wales said that approving the entire budgets didn’t necessarily mean that certain line items met with his approval.
The council approved:
• General Fund 2013 budget with projected revenues of $23.6 million, just $315,000 more than the 2012 budget. Expenditures are estimated at $23,589,17, which is $107,997 less than the current budget. That budget also includes General Fund Special Operating budgets for Animal Control, Alcohol, Gas taxes, Drug Task Force, Oil Lease Trust, and Court System; and Miscellaneous Operating budgets for the landfill and the Industrial Development Board;
• Gas Department Budget of $11.3 million;
• Wastewater budget, $5.57 million; and
• Water budget, $5.7 million.
The council also:
• Held a public hearing and declared property at 1505 Levert Ave., as a public nuisance. The city had received numerous complaints from owners of adjoining properties about uncut grass and weeds being a fire hazard and harboring vermin. The resolution allows the city, by state law, to cut the grass and assesses all costs associated, including advertising to the tax lien of the property. If not paid the city has authority to sell the property whether an individual or bank holds the mortgage;
• Held a public hearing and declared property at 1107 Winston Drive a public nuisance. Wales said neighbors have been mowing the front yard but the backyard has become too overgrown to be cut by their mowers;
• Set the date of a public hearing on a request to rezone property at U.S. 31 and Vaughn Drive from R-1-2, medium density housing, to B-2 business. Martin said the property, which is less than a half-acre failed to get a recommendation from the Athens Planning Commission;
• Approved travel expenses of $121.67 for Utilities Department employee Amy Golden to attend a TVPPA conference in Nashville;
• Approved lease of jointly owned property with Limestone County to Malone Brothers Farm;
• Heard comments from Quentin Anderson Sr. disagreeing with the measure to reclassify the city planner and encouraging the city to hire more African-American police officers and give all officers a pay raise;
• Heard from Ralph Diggins, who commended the city departments for conservative budgets and the many services they provide with available funds; and
• Heard from Wanda Adams, who commended the city on building new sidewalks and encouraging them to extend sidewalks down Hine Street where she said many residents have to walk in the street, causing a dangerous situation.