Author: Jane Nicholes

Fish River residents claim they weren’t notified of proposed sewer line

Down along Fish River, residents made it clear the other night they don’t want a sewer line running under it. “We’re here tonight because we were damn well upset,” said Dick Sute, a retired vice president of Volkert Inc. and co-organizer of what was intended to be an informal meeting of residents to discuss the proposed sewer line. When elected officials and representatives of Baldwin County Sewer Service turned up March 15, they got an earful from about 50 people who crowded into the Marlow Fish River fire station. As happened about 15 years ago, the interests of developers, landowners, private business and public government are again clashing over a quickly growing area of Baldwin County. On the west side of Fish River, off Ferry Road near County Road 32, the privately run BCSS serves 96 customers who are linked into a Fairhope city sewer line. On the east side, off the Honey Road boat launch, BCSS serves customers with lines that run to its Malbis wastewater treatment plant. As a result of litigation dating to 2002, BCSS and Fairhope agreed the west side customers could be served by BCSS lines through Fairhope’s wastewater treatment for 10 years, until the agreement expires on July 12 of this year. The agreement could have been extended, but in December Fairhope notified BCSS it would shut off the service and both parties...

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Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival weekend is a rite of spring

Lebaron Heathcoe is a retired boilermaker from Axis who creates articulated fish and an occasional alligator out of copper. Stewart Rein is a photographer from Las Vegas who prints landscapes and city scenes on paper, canvas, metal, note cards and tempered glass cutting boards. They are two of the hundreds of artists and craftspeople who will show their work in the 65th Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival and the Eastern Shore Art Center’s Spring Outdoor Art Show this weekend. One of the best-known events of its kind in the Southeast, the two shows fill much of downtown Fairhope with...

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Budget looks to be Fairhope’s next battleground

Fairhopians are getting a bit restless. They’re showing up at City Council meetings in droves and asking why everyone can’t just get along. They want to know what’s wrong with an occasional compromise. Their comments on social media are growing testy. “I really don’t see why you all can’t grow up and get along,” one woman said during the public comment period at Thursday’s council meeting. “I’m sorry, but i was a teacher for 34 years.” Mayor Karin Wilson and even some of the council members said they would like to stop the infighting and contentious verbal exchanges that have marked recent efforts to conduct city business. But in practice, old and new issues continue to generate controversy. The budget Wilson finally released a draft budget last week for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The city has been running more or less on the previous year’s budget. Wilson said she rewrote the proposed budget she inherited from former Mayor Tim Kant to make it more transparent and to highlight some fiscal issues, such as how much money from Fairhope utilities is used to subsidize general spending. Overall spending is up by some $838,000 compared to the original proposed general fund budget, for a total of about $24.4 million. But the budget came with a number of proposals from Wilson to cut spending or save money. They include: • Safety training...

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Authority explains how board member won hangar lease bid

When the Fairhope Airport Authority posted an overview and timeline regarding a controversial hangar lease awarded to a board member, the link to supporting documents did not work for a few days. Those documents, as well as the original timeline and written overview, are now available at The hangar lease has been the subject of allegations of wrongdoing by local blogger Paul Ripp, whose complaints to the Alabama Ethics Commission and various legal authorities prompted the Airport Authority to hire attorney Dennis Bailey to investigate Ripp and defend against the allegations. Indeed, the supporting documents are in a folder bearing Bailey’s name. The Ethics Commission has issued an advisory opinion saying the lease could go to board member Ray Hix because he had the best bid and did not participate in any board discussion of the project or the bids, as board members have confirmed he did not do so. According to the Airport Authority, its timeline, overview essay and supporting documents, the bid process went like this: In late 2014, Cedar Creek LLC and Executive Aviation approached the authority about building on two available hangar sites. The board decided to put out a request for proposals (essentially, an invitation to bid). Cedar Creek was awarded the bid for the first hangar pad and, in the ensuing months of 2015, the board began negotiations with Executive Aviation for...

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Legislature considers whether to let Baldwin raise gas tax

Since state Sen. Trip Pittman isn’t running for re-election, he figures he’s in the best position to offer the Baldwin County Commission the chance to raise taxes on gasoline next year. Pittman has proposed allowing the commission to levy up to 3 cents a gallon on fuel, though not until after Oct. 1, 2018. The money could be used only for pay-as-you-go infrastructure projects, and could not be used to back a bond issue. One-fourth of the money raised by the local tax would be split among municipalities based on population, according to the bill (SB79). Pittman has said his current term will be his last in the Senate because he believes in term limits for elected officials. Not facing re-election made him more comfortable pushing the legislation. The bill does not commit the commission to a tax increase, it only offers the commission the option. “It’s just something I think needs to be put in place. At some point it may be needed,” Pittman said. The bill passed the Senate and Tuesday morning cleared the Baldwin delegation in the House of Representatives. Rep. Steve McMillan told Lagniappe the local delegation was somewhat concerned because of talk around Montgomery of a statewide 6-cent gas tax, though nothing has been introduced as yet. They decided to go ahead and send the Baldwin tax to the House floor, he said. Pittman...

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About The Author

Jane Nicholes

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Jane Nicholes marvels at the stories to be told in Baldwin County. Rapid population growth and development affect local governments, traffic, public schools and the environment, yet citizens can create a controversy out of holiday tree lights. There’s always someone around who remembers who did what to whom 50 years ago. And Baldwin County high schools grow college and professional football players like farmers grow Silver King corn. Jane has more than 35 years of experience in daily newspapers, alternative newspapers and specialty publications in Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas and South Carolina. She is a former editorial writer and reporter for the Press-Register and former managing editor of The Times of Acadiana in Lafayette, La. A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she lives in Daphne.

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