Author: Jane Nicholes

Alabama may be 200, but Old Mobile has another 115 years on it

As the state of Alabama kicks off its bicentennial celebration, up the road and back in the woods archaeology work quietly continues into a much older piece of Deep South history — the original site of Mobile. Students at the University of South Alabama and volunteers work in a clearing on squared-off dirt slab that was once a house. A larger one-time house site is nearby, covered in heavy black plastic to keep it clear and protected from weather. Anyone idealizing archaeology as a glamorous undertaking has watched too many Indiana Jones movies. The people working on the house are literally scraping away the hard-packed dirt with handheld tools, hoping to find scraps of whatever the earliest settlers brought with them from France in 1702 and left behind in 1711, when they headed downriver to a place that didn’t flood so easily. Once known as La Mobile and nominally protected by Fort Louis de La Louisiane, today the site on the western bank of the Mobile River is known as the Old Mobile historic site. It sits on property that also is home to a DuPont agricultural chemical plant. Regular access is restricted to Gregory Waselkov and his crew; Waselkov is director of the Center for Archaeological Studies. But occasionally a busload of visitors is allowed onto the property to tour the site. A recent tour group was arranged...

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Baldwin County Sewer Service serves growth markets

Until they stink, overflow or back up, sewers are easy to ignore. Let someone see it or smell it, though, and everyone wants their sewers fixed yesterday. In a fast-growing place like Baldwin County, money, politics and the environment can also influence public interest in sewer service. It may not be the first thing a future homeowner thinks about when looking at a house or talking to a builder, but the price of a tap fee or the pros and cons of sewers versus septic tanks is probably going to come up sooner or later. When a city runs...

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Baldwin County curbside recycling studied, discarded

Baldwin County Commissioners decided not to move forward with curbside recycling Thursday because they weren’t sure it could pay for itself and they weren’t willing to subsidize it. Adding the service to regular garbage pickup could be done for $10 more per month if 2,400 customers signed up, said Terri Graham, the county’s solid waste director. It’s possible the service could break even, she said, but that would depend on how many people enrolled. The estimates hinge on the county having one recycling truck operating four days a week on a different pickup route each day. “Our charge is to collect garbage in Baldwin County,” said Commission Chairman Chris Elliott during a work session in Fairhope. The Legislature requires a recycling component to garbage service, and there are drop-off sites throughout the county. Commissioner Frank Burt asked if curbside recycling would have to be offered to all county customers. One group of customers in one part of the county might be large enough to pay for themselves, but a second, smaller group on the opposite side the county might cost money to serve, he said. “I just don’t see how it could work. I really don’t,” he said. Elliott agreed. “We will never make money if we’re running from Little River to Ono Island and everywhere in between.” Baldwin County Attorney David Conner said it was likely that all...

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Fairhope Council calls for unity, doesn’t get it

After many weeks of rhetoric and number crunching, here’s where things stand in Fairhope. The 2016-2017 budget is passed, about six months after it should have gone into effect. The hiring freeze put in place by the City Council is lifted. Mayor Karin Wilson says she’ll “likely” have to cut city services because the council’s hiring freeze left her short-staffed. Councilman Jay Anderson talked to the League of Municipalities and was told Wilson can’t do that without council approval. The new job created for Sherry-Lea Bloodworth Botop, Wilson’s most high-profile hire since taking office, has been eliminated. So has her department of community and economic development. Employees who have been with the city a year or more will receive 2 percent raises. That’s another defeat for Wilson, who wanted to give no raises this year while she implements a merit pay system. “I received a hard copy of council’s changes to my proposed budget on Thursday,” Wilson said. She provided copies at Monday’s council meeting and asked how council members could have done so much work in detail without consulting her. As for the elimination of Botop’s position, she said, “It’s not council’s role to determine the positions needed to run a city.” Botop herself was reported to be out of town at the time on city business. Council members said they all had experience in preparing budgets for...

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Wilson vetoes Fly Creek extension, council overrides

Despite a last-minute curveball thrown by Mayor Karin Wilson, the Fairhope City Council voted Monday to override her veto of an extension of time given to the property owner and developer of the Fly Creek apartment project. No one changed positions on the extension. Council members Jay Anderson, Jack Burrell, Robert Brown and Kevin Boone voted to override the mayor’s veto, while Jimmy Conyers voted against the override. Councilors did not seem affected by a presentation Wilson made before the vote in which she suggested something was amiss with the donation last fall of a piece of future apartment land to the city. The land was approximately four acres, of which about just over two were wetlands. The previous City Council accepted the land, but Wilson said the land was recorded as a gift to the city three days before the council’s vote. Meanwhile, she also said she could not find a copy of an attachment which may have been discussed that night. Wilson said the move would put the city at risk of liability for flooding in the area. But City Attorney Marion “Tut” Wynne said he didn’t think it affected the agreement between the city and developers to proceed with required items before construction could begin. Wilson said she would have the matter investigated and Burrell agreed it should be. On the Oct. 24, 2016, agenda there...

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