Author: Jane Nicholes

Even flowers may suffer from Fairhope hiring freeze

Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson on Thursday said the City Council’s hiring freeze will “likely” force cutbacks in services, while Council President Jack Burrell called Wilson “childish and unprofessional.” Despite public pleas from citizens in recent weeks to work together and be civil, the divide between mayor and council seems to be widening. Wilson accused council members of dragging their feet on the hiring freeze and the still-unapproved budget. Burrell shot back accusing Wilson of playing politics with city services. Some of the potential effects of reducing city services include closing the Recreation Center on Sundays, letting the city’s flowers...

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Standing room only at Byrne’s Daphne town hall

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne got an earful about health insurance Wednesday during a town hall meeting at Daphne City Hall. Byrne (R-Fairhope) is holding 11 town hall meetings in six counties in his district in four days this week. Whether some the standing-room-only turnout of 175 were part of a political party or other organized interest group or not, many people had written out their detailed health insurance questions and horror stories in advance. As Republicans seek to dismantle Obamacare and come up with something else, for this group paying for health care was by far their top issue....

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Opposition to Battles Wharf development remains strong

Longstanding litigation between developer Charles “Buddy” Breland and the city of Fairhope over a tract of land in Battles Wharf is again generating controversy as neighbors and environmental groups renew the fight over whether wetlands there should be filled in. In a normal executive session to discuss pending litigation, a city council is not obliged to name the case or cases that might be discussed. The logic is such sessions are closed to the public under same rules that apply to attorney-client privilege. But as the April 10 Fairhope City Council meeting carried on, it became clear most of the spectators knew well which case was up for a legal discussion that night, and a lot of them wanted to say their piece before officials and lawyers went behind closed doors. They wanted the council to know they’re still opposed to the idea of filling in about 10.5 acres of wetlands, regardless of who approved it 10 years ago or how much money it might cost the city to keep the litigation going. Breland, a well-known local developer, bought 65 acres just south of Nelson Road in 1999 for a little over $500,000. Some suggest the tract is more like a swamp acting as a valuable stormwater retention pond. Neighbors worry about regular stormwater flooding in the area. But Breland received appropriate permits to fill in the 10.5 acres...

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Daphne forming education advisory committee

As public education becomes a greater source of concern along the rapidly developing Eastern Shore, Daphne is forming an education advisory committee to work with its own local schools. Daphne also wants to do a feasibility study for an entirely separate school system, but that has nothing to do with the advisory committee, said Councilwoman Tommie Conaway. Rather, the advisory committee would work with individual school administrators to improve academic performance. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the feasibility study,” Conaway said. “It’s just something we need to do, and we should have done it before now. How can we help to improve education in schools?” Conaway was the first principal at Daphne Elementary East, which opened in 2004 and is now so crowded that a major addition is underway. She said she has thought for some time the city should be be more involved with the local schools. At one time, she said, Daphne had a similar type of education advisory committee but it faded away. Councilman Pat Rudicell is also working to form the new committee. “We’re just getting organized. We’re working on a draft ordinance. That should be out very soon. Once we’ve done that, then we’re going to accept resumes,” she said. In recent weeks public talk about a separate system and the possibility of a large-scale residential development being constructed southeast of town...

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Alcohol restrictions tame Baldwin County spring break

Spring break doesn’t start and end in Baldwin County so much as it starts up and winds down. While there may be some families or groups of college kids out on the beaches this week, the days when nearby universities and local high schools were all out on break at once are over for the year. Gulf Shores’ infamous spring break alcohol ban on the beaches ended Monday, though we don’t recommend throwing a keg party there in celebration. Gulf Shores plans to review the need for the ban every year, but these numbers make a strong argument for the future: • Arrests in Gulf Shores last year from March 3 through April 16: 633; • Arrests this year: 370. “I think it was a lesser crowd,” Gulf Shores Police Lt. Bill Cowan said. “There were still plenty of people here, but I think the alcohol ban for the weeks of spring break had the effect of letting people know that we’re not going to be the college party town. We’re not interested in being the college party town. I think that helped.” When Panama City Beach got so out of control authorities there had to take steps to make it less attractive for the hard-partying college crowd, Pleasure Island leaders feared they would move west. And when some of them did migrate last year, the underage drinking and...

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Pittman worries more about budget than U.S. Senate

State Sen. Trip Pittman says he’s been too busy in the commotion surrounding former Gov. Robert Bentley’s departure from office to give much thought to a campaign for Luther Strange’s U.S. Senate seat. “My plate’s full,” Pittman told Lagniappe Thursday. Pittman chairs the General Fund Committee, a crucial state budget position. Since the Legislature has been unable to move forward while awaiting a recommendation regarding impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, the budget is one of multiple issues that need to be resolved quickly. Pittman said he thinks new Gov. Kay Ivey will a do a good job...

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Elliott seaks state Senate seat

The 2018 race for a Baldwin County state Senate seat officially got underway Thursday as County Commission Chairman Chris Elliott announced he was running for the post. In a lengthy Facebook post, Elliott said, “As a Baldwin County Commissioner, I have built coalitions to substantially increase the efficiency of your county government saving taxpayers 10’s of millions of dollars each year and reducing substantially the overall county employee headcount all while increasing spending on road and drainage projects to address our critical infrastructure needs. We have brought new high paying jobs to Baldwin County with even more prospects in...

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Controversial Fly Creek apartments get extension

The Fly Creek upscale apartment development was a key issue in last year’s Fairhope municipal elections, costing some city leaders their offices. At least some voters hoped with a new mayor and three new council members the controversial apartments to be built behind Publix would go away. That’s not what happened Monday when a crucial extension of time to get the project moving was approved on a 4-1 vote. Only Councilman Jimmy Conyers voted to deny the extension. Other councilors said regardless of their personal opinions on the project, the city’s own temporary moratorium on new subdivisions blocked the...

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