Warehouse District merchant Chad Witcher advocates continued Saturday street closure in the district.
CULLMAN – At its regular meeting Monday evening, the Cullman City Council awarded a contract to the Creel Company, Inc. to replace the ultraviolet disinfection system at the city wastewater treatment plant. The current system was damaged beyond repair in the Christmas flood of 2015, and the plant has had to use alternate means to disinfect water since that time. The new system is designed to withstand the type of damage that shut down the old equipment. The total amount of the contract is $2,015,545, almost $800,000 below the original replacement estimate. The contract was sent out to bid, and Creel was the lowest responsible bidder.
The council also heard from representatives of the Warehouse District merchants concerning the current trial run of Saturday street closure on First Avenue Northeast. District merchant Chad Witcher, owner of If the Shoe Fits, spoke on his own behalf and that of two other merchants present, asking for the one-month experiment to be converted to an ongoing plan. He cited improved business and pedestrian traffic through the area, and pointed out that even businesses outside the district have benefitted from the plan.
Witcher explained, “Our whole focus down there is to try to buy local. We love Cullman, we love Cullman businesses, and we want to promote that. It’s good for the city, it’s good for us. So we tested it this past weekend with a local merchant. Mitch Smith Chevrolet was kind enough to allow us to borrow four cars we parked in the district. They had their signs on it, and I got a call from the Chevrolet dealership; they received two customers as a result of having the cars parked in the district. They’ve got salespeople selling cars because of what we did. We want to turn that into something that, on a regular basis, we can promote local businesses.”
Witcher continued, sharing a little of the vision of the pro-closure merchants, “We put bubbles out there, we put sidewalk chalk out there. We’re going to put tables and chairs, those kinds of things out there, so if people want to eat their lunch outside; just turn it into a place where people can really just spend time with their families, spend time with other families.”
Council President Garlan Gudger brought up a recent letter of complaint the council received concerning a lack of access for elderly people with mobility problems. In the ensuing discussion, which included merchants, council members, and City Director of Building, Planning, and Zoning Rick Fulmer, proposals were set forth to increase the number of handicapped parking spaces immediately outside the pedestrian zone. All seemed to agree that the Saturday pedestrian closure appears to be a good idea, but that accessibility for as many people as possible should be a key concern in the planning process.
The merchants’ request was not on the agenda, and the council took no action. Gudger did say that the council will take up the matter at its first meeting in May.
In other business, the council approved the following requests and resolutions (from the agenda):
1. A request from Joyce Echols of Watchmen over Cullman for a special event permit to hold a gathering on the front steps of city hall on May 4, 2017 (the National Day of Prayer) from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. (Echols and other representatives were present to introduce themselves and their group to the council. This event will be their first official function.)
2. A request from Ryan Pierce and Larissa Mueller for a special event permit and a noise permit to hold a wedding with reception to follow in the alley behind Southern Accents and Fairview Florist on May 20, 2017 from 6 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. (The groom is related to Council President Gudger, so he abstained from the vote.)
Resolutions and Ordinances:
Resolution No. 2017 – 71 – To approve change order no. 1 for Carcel & G Construction, LLC for the Downtown Streetscape Phase IV project to increase the contract amount by $6,975.73 to a total of $425,533.73 and extend the completion date by five days to August 24, 2017.
Resolution No. 2017 – 73 – To award the bid for tree services at 1725 Highland Drive NW to the lowest responsible bidder, Reeve’s and Son, LLC, in the budgeted amount of $2,450.
First Reading of Ordinance No. 2017 – 13 – To amend the City of Cullman Alcohol Ordinance.
First Reading of Ordinance No. 2017 – 14 – To participate in the 2017 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday beginning on Friday, July 21, 2017 at 12:01 a.m. and ending on Sunday, July 23, 2017 at Midnight. (The council voted to suspend the rules and allow a vote on this ordinance, which passed unanimously.)
Resolution No. 2017 – 62 – To enter into a contract for services with Camp Meadowbrook to provide facilities and meeting space for public and community meetings which will serve a public purpose. (This contract is not to exceed expenditures of $12,000 per month, and is effective for one year.)
The Cullman City Council meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Cullman City Hall. The public is invited to attend.