The city of Fairhope is another step closer to studying the feasibility of alternative funding options for the city’s five feeder pattern schools now that Mayor Tim Kant has the city council’s approval to negotiate a fee schedule with the Spanish Fort-based Akribos Consulting Group.
Once negotiations between Kant and the firm are complete, the final fee schedule must be approved by the City Council before Akribos — owned by former Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent Faron Hollinger — can begin the study.
Fairhope’s Education Advisory Committee selected Akribos over Florida-based Evergreen Solutions at its meeting last week.
According to its presentation at a previous EAC meeting, Akribos will consider the academic, financial and cultural ramifications of an unchanged system, then compare it to one supported by a proposed special tax district to benefit Fairhope schools as they currently function within the BCBE, or as they may function in a separate, city-governed system.
Fairhope EAC Chairman Kerry Flowers said the strength of Akribos lies in its project team, which includes former Deputy State Superintendent Ruth Ash, former Trussville City Schools Administrator Pat Hodge, former Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama Director Jim Williams, education policy analyst Gene Murphree and facility planning specialist Stephen Salmon.
“Everything we are asking them to do, from looking at our schools as they are now, doing a special tax district or creating an independent system, they’ve done it all before,” Flowers said.
According to Flowers, the EAC is asking Akribos to present unbiased, factual information about each of the three options, not to recommend one to the city.
“We told them not to recommend any one of the three options, but instead to tell us what each of the three options will mean for the city,” Flowers said. “They are going to tell us the facts so that (the city council) can make an informed decision.”
Councilwoman Diana Brewer said Akribos’ location in Baldwin County, and its members’ connections to the county system, gave the firm the edge over Evergreen. Brewer said 46 percent of the city’s school aged children live outside the city limit, which could complicate the creation of a special tax district for the feeder pattern.
“When we asked them to compare Fairhope to the top 10 schools, they quickly said they will look at the Fairhope feeder pattern as a school system in order to compare it to the best systems in the state,” Brewer said.
At Monday’s City Council work session, Kant expressed concerns about the impact of breaking away from the BCPSS on the Aviation Academy at the Fairhope Airport, which is on city property but is home to a BCPSS academy. He said some city venues, like the Nix Center and Fairhopers Community Park, sit on BCPSS properties as well.
City picks engineer for ADA compliance, approves $9,729 for potting soil
In other business, the Council selected Engineering Design Technologies (EDT) Inc. to ensure the city complies with federal and Alabama Department of Transportation requirements related to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As a member of the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the city must comply with ADA regulations in order to continue receiving federal transportation funds.
EDT is a firm with locations in Daphne, Birmingham, Huntsville and a handful of other east coast cities. It’s Daphne location is run by Lawrence Wilson, a former engineer for Baldwin County.
The city must submit paperwork outlining and reviewing its plan to bring its sidewalk and public facilities up to compliance with ADA regulations, and Monday night the council approved a resolution allowing Kant to negotiate payments with the company.
“Going forward, any projects in our corporate limits must have a survey and ADA compliance plan for how we will comply going forward,” Kant said. “If we are going to get any money for signalization on Highway 98, the federal government is not going to fund anything without this plan. Anything dealing with the ADA, we have to comply.”
According to Kant, the federal government has begun issuing letters to municipalities about ADA enforcement, and the city of Fairhope is no exception — recently receiving letters regarding its sidewalks, traffic lights and public beach sites and various other areas.
Information from the MPO shows a target date of July 15, 2016 for member governments transition plans to be in compliance with ADA requirements.
Finally, the council also approved a $9,729 payment to BWI Companies Inc. for a truckload delivery of 900 50-pound bags of Metro Mix potting soil for the public works department for plantings around the city.
The city solicited bids from six companies, but Texas-based BWI was the lone respondent. The company maintains a branch office locally in Semmes.
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