Cullman Council approves west side arts district, $1.5m loan to HomTex for mask production

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City Clerk Wesley Moore provided a downtown map showing the boundaries of the approved Arts District. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman City Council on Monday evening approved the creation of an arts district on Cullman’s west side, the boundaries of which would include portions of Fifth Avenue Southwest, Sixth Street Southwest, Fourth Street Southwest, Hickory Avenue Southwest, First Street Southwest and Third Avenue Southwest. An updated version of the map presented at the meeting shows that residential sites have been removed, and more retail sites added to the district since it was first presented.

City Clerk Wesley Moore had previously explained that the arts district “is more like a special events district. It’s a place where you can have festivals, community events- things that support local art and are family-friendly.”

Alcohol could be served at special events within the district, but the same rules would apply as at events held in locations like the Warehouse District during Oktoberfest. At all other times, regular city alcohol ordinances would apply.

HomTex to receive $1.5 loan for mask production

The council approved an ordinance allowing the city to loan $1.5 million to its Industrial Development Board, which will in turn loan the money to HomTex to cover almost one third of the cost of retooling its Cullman production facility to produce “surgical and residential mask(s) which are urgently needed to fight the COVID-19 virus.”

HomTex has already begun making reusable cloth masks and will continue to do so, while the new machinery will allow the company to expand its operation to include disposable masks. The company hopes to have the equipment in May, and to be in production in early June.

HomTex’s total capital investment in the project is expected to reach $5 million, and the project, according to Cullman Economic Development Director Dale Greer, is predicted to create around 100 new jobs and generate $8 million in annual sales with production of up to 400 million masks per year. The company will repay the loan at 2.2% interest.

“Small Cell Technology Facilities” regulated

The council suspended the regular rules of procedure to pass two ordinances with only a first reading, to regulate the placement of small cellular antennas and accessory equipment on the city’s rights of way (defined in the proposed ordinance as “ the surface and space in, upon, above, along, across, over and below any public streets, avenues, highways, roads, courts, lanes, alleys, boulevards, ways, sidewalks and bicycle lanes, including all public utility easements and public service easements within those places, as the same now or may hereafter exist, that are within the City’s corporate boundaries and under the jurisdiction of the City”), as well as public and private property, and establish fees for such placement.

The proposed ordinance would encourage the use of existing structures to mount equipment and colocation of multiple wireless service providers’ equipment on the same structures. City Attorney Roy Williams told the council that recent laws allow cellular providers to place antennas and equipment in municipal rights of way, and the ordinances will allow the city to ensure that such placement is consistent with city planning.

Other council business

The council 

  • passed an ordinance approving a request from developer Gregory Windham to allow the rezoning of property in the Windbrook subdivision from R-1 (low housing density; bigger yards, fewer structures) to R-2 (medium density).

  • granted H & M Land Company a 50-foot access easement through city-owned property to a land-locked parcel belonging to the company, contingent upon annexation of the property into the city.

  • vacated an alley at 510 Fifth Ave. NW, adjacent to Oak Drive Northwest, to grant Catherine Apel a permanent utility easement, to correct a previous errant easement location. Apel will exchange an easement where city utilities are actually located on her property for the vacated land, estimated to be of the same value.

  • approved a professional services agreement with Black Design Architecture for the renovation of an existing building and construction of a new building at Nesmith Park, for an amount of up to $10,000.

  • approved a professional services agreement with TTL, Inc. for civil engineering and infrastructure services for the Industrial Access Road to NAFCO in an amount of up to $52,200.

 

Mayor issues Fair Housing Month proclamation

Mayor Woody Jacobs presented the following proclamation:

WHEREAS, April 11, 2020 marks the 52nd Anniversary of the passage of the United States Fair Housing Law, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which enunciated a National Policy of fair housing without regard to race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; and 

WHEREAS, the effective implementation of the National Policy depends on affirmative action at all levels of Government; 

NOW, THEREFORE, the City of Cullman, does hereby proclaim the month of April 2020, as Fair Housing Month in recognition of the importance of fair housing to our way of life, and I urge our citizens to obey the letter and the spirit of the Fair Housing Law as an expression of the individual rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Jacobs also announced that the council has enacted a new incentive program to encourage participation in the 2020 Census. Each Cullman resident (only city residents are eligible) who fills out the census is eligible for weekly drawings for gift cards redeemable at city businesses and restaurants as a means of stimulus to those establishments. The mayor announced that the first week’s winner is Jennifer Branham, who won a $50 gift card to Ashley Mercantile.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com