Busy meeting: Cullman names Technology Village director, approves deteriorated properties ordinance


Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer with the new Technology Village Director John Wessel (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)

CULLMAN – The Cullman City Council had a busy evening Monday, with business ranging from run-down old buildings to the City’s newest appointed office.

Technology Village Cullman director

The Council approved an ordinance to amend the city’s list of appointed officials, adding “Director of Technology Village,” and also approved the hiring of John Wessel to fill that post.

According to the Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA), since 2015, Wessel has served as CEO of Piedmont Ray Associates, LLC.  Piedmont Ray is a full-service management consulting and executive coaching firm located in Huntsville, Alabama.  Prior to founding Piedmont Ray, Wessel worked for Wesfam Restaurants, Inc. in Huntsville, Alabama for almost 25 years.  During his tenure with Wesfam, the organization nearly doubled in size and revenue. Wessel managed key departments such as administration, marketing, operations and human resources during these years of unprecedented growth.

Wessel has BS and MBA degrees in marketing from The University of Alabama.  He completed the Executive Development Institute at the University of North Carolina, is accredited in public relations through the Universal Accreditation Board, certified by the Galliard Family Business Advisor Institute and serves on Auburn University’s Entrepreneurship Council.  He has published numerous articles related to franchising and family business and spoken to university classes and civic groups on a variety of business related topics.

Technology Village Cullman (TVC) Board of Directors Chairman Jamie Troutman added, “I look forward to working with John and think he is the perfect mix of what we were looking for in a director.  He is extremely knowledgeable, educated, has experience in the business and entrepreneurial world, and has an enthusiastic down-to-earth personality. We have been impressed by his ideas for the center and the passion he has demonstrated for leading this endeavor.”

 TVC is a joint venture between the City of Cullman, Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, Wallace State and the University of Alabama, geared toward helping new businesses in tech fields get off the ground in the Cullman area

Mayor Woody Jacobs said, “I believe Cullman is going to set the standard for entrepreneurial incubators in the State of Alabama.  We have been successful in economic development in recruiting new industry and expanding existing industry.  TVC is just adding another piece to that puzzle. I know our community will get behind this project and help make it a success.”

See The Tribune’s story from Monday night: www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2017/10/11/cullman-chosen-university-alabama-site-new-technology-village.

Dealing with deteriorated properties

The council approved an ordinance (2018-27) to deal with blighted properties, deemed “unsafe and dangerous structures,” located in the city limits of Cullman.  Ordinance No. 2018-27, which received a favorable recommendation from the City of Cullman Planning Commission, consolidates existing policies found in multiple Alabama laws into a single coherent city ordinance.
The ordinance covers City action in numerous instances, including (among others) buildings:

  • with load-bearing walls or structures overloaded, buckled, or leaning
  • with significant deterioration even in non-structural areas
  • damaged by disaster, vandalism, or abandonment
  • infested with vermin
  • with improper ventilation or sanitation
  • lacking sufficient emergency exits
  • containing electrical or other equipment operating in an unsafe condition

The ordinance sets forth the actions that can be taken when such conditions are found, including repair, relocation or demolition of buildings at the City’s expense with a tax lien being placed on the land to reimburse City costs.

The ordinance also sets forth a detailed procedure governing how municipal officials are to deal with such properties and their owners.  At the time the Planning Commission recommended the ordinance, City Building and Planning Director Rick Fulmer told The Tribune that the extensive regulations create a series of checks and balances to protect both city officials and property owners, and to prevent abuse of the ordinance’s policies by anyone.

The council also approved the following resolutions and ordinances:

  • Resolution No. 2018-57 to enter into contract with Local Government Services, LLC for cable television franchise management services.   The City of Cullman wished to regulate and oversee the provision of cable television services, and LGS has available a cable television franchise management service to assist the City in such regulation.  The City will pay $12,000 plus out of pocket expenses incurred by LGS, its agents, employees or subcontractors, including postage, transportation, meals and lodging. The contract can be canceled with 30 days’ notice.
  • Resolution No. 2018-58 to award the bid for the Airport Septic System to the lowest responsible bidder, Complete Construction, LLC, in the budgeted amount not to exceed $126,514.  The City will split that amount with the County. The only other bidder was Construction Specialty Associates, Inc. which submitted a bid of 144,500.
  • Ordinance No. 2018-29 to annex a 16.75-acre parcel owned by Minuteman Construction located at County Road 702 (East Hanceville Road Southeast) as a Residential District.  This ordinance received a favorable recommendation from the City of Cullman Planning Commission.
  • The council suspended the rules of procedure to act on the first reading of Ordinance No. 2018-34 to adopt street lighting and natural gas regulations for the City of Cullman. According to the document itself, “The purpose of this Ordinance is to provide guidelines for street lighting, and natural gas services in new, amended, and additions to subdivisions in the City of Cullman, Alabama of four or more lots.  To promote the health and safety of the citizens and to establish guidelines and minimum requirements of illumination of the streets and sidewalks of residential and commercial subdivisions created on or after the adoption of this Ordinance.”  The ordinance sets forth requirements that any new subdivision of four or more lots must have street lights with underground wiring. It also established regulations for approved lighting and mount types. Natural gas service must also be provided to any new developments of four lots or more.
  • The council suspended the rules of procedure to act on the first reading of Ordinance No. 2018-31 to provide for the 2018 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday for the third weekend in July.
  • The council suspended the rules of procedure to act on the first reading of Ordinance No. 2018-32 to enter into a joint “purchasing” agreement with the Cullman County Commission.  The agreement allows the City and County to purchase from each other’s bid lists.

The council had a first reading of Ordinance No. 2018-33 to amend the business license ordinance for the City of Cullman, to change the number of yard sales allowed to a single household from one two-day yard sale to two three-day yard sales per year.  No action was taken on the first reading.

The council also approved a request from Karen Cook Ministries for use of the sidewalks around the Cullman County Courthouse for a leadership prayer event on Sept. 7.

Rock the South report

Police Chief Kenny Culpepper and Fire Chief Brian Bradberry gave reports on their departments’ activities during Rock the South (RTS).  

Culpepper told the council that “this is the largest crowd that we’ve ever had, and some of the fewest arrests; so we feel like it was very, very successful.”

Culpepper particularly commended the combined forces’ ability to move traffic out of the Heritage Park area in a fast and orderly manner.

Bradberry reported that around 470 people received minor first aid at the park, 104 patients required more serious treatment and 31 had to be transported to the emergency room.

Bradberry also commended the multiple agencies that took part in the event, telling the council, “I’d just like to say the fire department guys did a great job, but the truth is, a lot of different public safety agencies in this town pitched in to make it successful for us.”

For more on the role of emergency responders at RTS, see: www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2018/06/05/rock-south-after-action-report.

Heritage Village resident addressed council

Accompanied by his wife and neighbors, Heritage Village resident Cody Zozoka came to ask the council how the plans for his community received approval, and about the stormwater and sewage drainage systems.  Members of that community have attended several recent council and planning commission meetings, addressing the panels when allowed.

At the most recent planning commission meeting, developer Brett Barker said that some of the subdivision’s drainage issues lay with Davidson Homes, the construction company that built many of the houses.

Zozoka asked specifically what codes were used by inspectors to approve the plans.  City Attorney Roy Williams told him that city inspectors simply checked to make sure that construction followed plans drawn up by engineers, and that they did not go into such details as measuring stormwater amounts at the site.  Williams also assured the resident that he would meet with the city building department to find out more.

Mayor Woody Jacobs suggested that Williams could bring the information back to the next council meeting.

The Cullman City Council meets in the Cullman City Hall Auditorium at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday evenings of each month.  The public is invited to attend.

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