Cullman council approves tax abatement for new $5M distribution center, hears concerns about retired employee benefits

Former Cullman employee John Looney returns the certificate of appreciation he received at his retirement, citing the City’s lack of cost of living increases for its retirees. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman City Council on Monday evening, reduced to three members (President Pro Tem Johnny Cook, Clint Hollingsworth and David Moss) by COVID quarantines or related issues, voted to grant a 10-year tax abatement to ST Holdings, which owns Bedzzz Express, for a new distribution center to be located in the city. The construction project is expected to involve a $5 million capital investment by the company and result in 24 new jobs and an estimated $740,000 in annual income. 

The company is exempted from all ad valorem, mortgage, recording and construction-related transaction taxes, but will still have to pay all taxes directed to support of education, including any taxes that fall under any of the previously listed categories.

First readings prepare for upcoming action

The council gave a first reading to three ordinances that will be voted on at a later meeting. No action was taken Monday evening.

An ordinance to adopt new sanitation rates for the City of Cullman:

Residential – $16 per month charge for the first container (this is the rate sanitation customers already pay); each additional container will be an additional $8 per container, for once a week solid waste pickup, “for each single family residence, town house, condominium or other living quarters within the city limits of the City of Cullman.”

  • Separate containers will be provided to families in apartment complexes, and they will be charged. 
  • Excessive trash pickup at a residence can be charged an additional pickup fee at the discretion of the Sanitation Department. 

Commercial – $60 per month for weekly solid waste pickup in two 96 gallon carts “for each office or business in the City of Cullman. If more frequent service is required, fees may be adjusted accordingly.” 

  • Excessive trash pickup at a commercial office or business can be charged an additional pickup fee at the discretion of the Sanitation Department. 

Dumpster Service 

  • Two Yard Dumpster $80 per haul, $50 delivery 
  • Four Yard Dumpster $120 per haul, $50 delivery 
  • Six Yard Dumpster $160 per haul, $50 
  • Eight Yard Dumpster $200 per haul, $50 delivery 

Roll-off Service

  • Twenty Yard Roll-Off Container $100 per delivery, $175 per haul, $6 daily rent, plus tipping fees 
  • Thirty Yard Roll-Off Container $100 per delivery, $175 per haul, $6 daily rent, plus tipping fees 
  • Forty Yard Roll-Off Container $100 per delivery, $175 per haul, $6 daily rent, plus tipping fees
  • Compactor Service minimum monthly rental $475 plus hauling and disposal fees “which will vary at the discretion of the Sanitation Department.” 

The proposed ordinance noted, “There will be an inflation adjustment of 3% or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is greater, will applied annually to all rates and fees included in this ordinance on every October 1st.”

An ordinance that would change the City of Cullman Planning Commission from nine members to seven:

The current ordinance describes a nine member Planning Commission which “consists of the Mayor, or his or her designee, one of the administrative officials of the municipality selected by the Mayor, a member of the City Council selected by the City Council, and six (6) persons appointed by the Mayor.”

Under the new ordinance, the commission will be appointed as follows: 

  • Six members appointed by the mayor
  • One member appointed by a majority of the council, who may be a member of the Council
  • One non-voting advisory member appointed by the mayor, “who shall be an administrative official of the municipality qualified by education, training, experience, and job responsibilities to provide substantive and technical advice, assistance, and guidance to the planning commission in the exercise of its statutory functions.” 


A nuisance ordinance for the City of Cullman:

The proposed ordinance notes that “an abundance of abandoned or inoperable vehicles, abandoned overgrown grass and weeds, abandoned and unoccupied dilapidated structures, and other nuisances described herein within the city limits of Cullman, Alabama, could be injurious to the general welfare through being a dangerous public menace and an eyesore, and providing breeding grounds and shelter for rats, mice, snakes, mosquitoes, and other vermin, insects and pests; or attaining heights and dryness that constitute a serious fire threat or hazard; or bearing wingy or downy seeds, when mature that cause the spread of weeds and when breathed, irritation to the throat, lungs, and eyes of the public; or hiding debris such as broken glass or metal that could inflict injury on a person going upon the property, or being unsightly and constituting a usual blight.”

The ordinance would declare it unlawful:

  • for the owner, occupant, or person in charge of a property within the City of Cullman, Alabama, to allow the existence of any abandoned, unoccupied dilapidated structure that is a dangerous public menace that could work hurt, inconvenience, or damage to another, as well as an eyesore.
  • for the owner, occupant, or person in charge of a property within the City of Cullman, Alabama, whether vacant or not, to use said property for open storage of any inoperable or abandoned motor vehicle, ice box, refrigerator, stove, or other appliance, glass, bottles, tin cans, brush, combustible materials, building materials, building rubbish, and similar items, or to allow the accumulation of weeds, grass, dead trees, brush, trash, garbage, tires, and similar items that create a nuisance and blight on the community, unlawful for an accumulation or storage of debris, refuse, brush, parts of buildings, remains from building demolition, parts of untenantable or uninhabitable structures, used machinery, used tires, used vehicles, parts of vehicles, abandoned vehicles, or any other materials which may provide a breeding place for mosquitoes, harmful insects, rodents and snakes or is so unsightly as to be offensive to the surrounding area is a nuisance in violation of this Ordinance. 
  • to allow garbage to remain exposed in any manner on such person’s premises or on the adjacent street or alley. 
  • for any person to sweep, throw or dispose of trash, waste matter or garbage onto or into property not owned by such person or under such person’s control, except in the landfill as designated by the City in a lawful manner.
  • for any person to throw or sweep trash, rubbish, garbage, or filth of any kind onto the streets, sidewalks, or public grounds in the City or into waterways, ponds, lakes, or other bodies of water within the City limits of the City of Cullman or direct others to do so.
  • for any person to permit or maintain the existence of any nuisance on any property under such person’s ownership or control. 


Council hears from dissatisfied former employee

During its public segment, the council heard from Johnny Looney, a former City employee who retired after 26 years of service and received a certificate of appreciation from then-Mayor Donald Green. Looney offered a complaint that he suffers financial hardships, that the City does not offer cost of living raises to its retired employees like it does for active employees and that the only solution ever offered to him by Cullman was to come out of retirement and return to work. 

The council listened to Looney’s concerns but did not respond. Looney left the meeting after returning his certificate of appreciation.

The Cullman City Council meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in the city hall auditorium. The public is invited to attend.

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W.C. Mann