Actually, it's Bessemer catch up, but I thought the title was cute.
It's been a while since I've been to a city council meeting. We've been out of town so much, and other obligations have just made it difficult to go.
Last night I went.
The council, always moving forward since this session started, seemed a little out of sync last night. A resolution that were expected to pass, did not, and the council then heard from a property owner, and figured out how to do a re-vote, did it and passed the resolution.
Then, a motion to introduce the ordinance that would raise the lodging tax from 3% to 6% came up. As a vote neared, nervous hotel owners were on the edge of their seats wanting to speak. Finally, they were allowed, and they argued that raising the tax would send guests to the new hotels near the Galleria, and also that the last time the tax was raised, they had to lower their rate so the amount charged to guests was still competitive. They will have to do that again, one said, and when they lower their rates, and when their business falls, the tax collected goes down too.
The council decided to take the matter up in a planning session at which the owners will be allowed to make a presentation. The session will be May 10 at 9:00 am.
Here is some news out of the meeting. The Bessemer Super Highway Bridge will be replaced by ALDOT. This will be an 18-24 month project. A start date had not been set, and a decision on whether to replace two lanes at a time, allowing reduced traffic flow to continue on the other two lanes, or to close the entire bridge and do it all at once, but finishing the project about 6 months quicker, has not been made.
Also, repaving of a section of I-20/59 is imminent. This includes a section from Bessemer to Fairfield, and includes the exits and entrances and streets underneath, such at 18th and 19th streets that are so rough and bumpy.
There will be an E-waste recycling day at the Bessemer Civic Center on Saturday, May 7, from 8 am to 1 pm, for electronics and computers. They will take desktop, laptops, empty inkjet cartridges, laser toner cartridges, cell phones, some pagers and blackberries. They will not be taking used printer ribbons, fax ribbons or empty toner bottles.
This will be a fundraiser for Bessemer City Schools. For every three computers recycled, one refurbished computer will be donated to the school system.
Here is some more news from the meeting. The Bessemer Police Department is implementing a Zero Tolerance policy in Bessemer regarding crime. More on this later. But maybe it will lead to less of this type of graffiti, seen recently in downtown Bessemer.
Let's see. A racial slur toward Hispanics, a Nazi symbol, then some Hispanic graffiti. Lot's of hatred going around.
I spoke to the council about the opposite; the outpouring of love as evidenced by the local response to the tornado. Specifically I spoke about Hands on Birmingham, and urged anyone who wanted to volunteer to go the web site and register and check back often for updated opportunities. The recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint, so there will be plenty of opportunity in the coming months. But the need is great right now.
I also spoke about a way to honor my friend, Bessemer DHR Director Nancy Wilson, who was killed by the tornado. More about this later.
A rec center!
Bessemer will finally be getting a rec center, according to the Birmingham News. This came about at one of the meetings I missed. A 1 cent sales tax was passed, and part of this money will go toward a rec center. Plans are not finalized, in fact, they are not even under way.
We certainly hope a swimming pool will be a part of the new rec center. Council member Sherrina Rice thinks so too. The last public pools in Bessemer were closed during the 1960's so little black boys and girls and little white boys and girls wouldn't be able to swim together. Isn't that just tacky? And embarrassing, that our ancestors (not that long ago) thought that way?
Council president Jesse Matthews thinks Roosevelt Park would be a good location. One of the pools that was filled in was at Roosevelt Park. Good central location.
Planning is in the early stages. I have a suggestion for the mayor and council. The Public Building Authority is bringing a top notch DHR building to the city. Why not give the PBA the job of bringing a rec center to the city? Just a thought, from a PBA member that wants to continue to make Bessemer a better place.