Madison City Council Report: Special election, Toyota Field success dominated meeting
By Maria Rakoczy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The issue of the city manager proposal was the center of attention at Monday’s Madison City Council meeting. A petition submitted by citizen’s group, Madison Forward, seeking a special election has officially been approved by Madison County and Limestone County Probate judges. The group is promoting the city’s proposed plan to move to city manager-council form of government instead of the current mayor-council form. To do so, a majority of voters must approve the transition.
Madison Mayor Paul Finley said a special election will be set for early May. He will be announce the date at the March 13 city council meeting. If the proposal passes, the change will take effect in 2025.
Click here for previous story about the issue.
In light of the petition’s approval, several citizens during the public comments portion of the meeting voiced their concerns surrounding the ethics of the council’s relationship with Madison Forward and the effectiveness of the city manager form of government for Madison.
One Madison resident, Margi Daly stated, “[The petition] doesn’t represent citizens.” Several other citizens took to the podium to articulate similar outlooks, and others asked for transparency and increased communication from the city council in the time leading up the special election.
Daly has accused Dr. Terri Johnson’s role with Madison Forward as being inappropriate since she works for a state university. Johnson is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at UAH and serves as the co-chair of Madison Forward.
Johnson responded by defending her involvement with Madison Forward and the group’s relationship with the city council. Quoting Alabama code on public employees, she stated, “All persons in the employment of any city, county, or state shall have the right to publicly support issues of public welfare, circulate petitions calling for or in support of referendums and contribute freely to those of his or her own choosing.”
Johnson is a long-time community volunteer. She served on the Madison Board of Education from 2007-2017 and as the school board’s president from 2015-2017. She also co-chaired the school district’s Growth Impact Committee in 2018, and was appointed to the city’s planning commission in 2019.
Addressing the issues of transparency and increased communication, especially in how the proposed transition would happen if approved by voters, Mayor Paul Finley responded, in part, saying, “We’re going to meet with our teams the latter part of this week, first part of next week to make sure that we do some of what I’ve just heard.” He said they will look at who will be responsible for getting the proper information to residents before the election and how that is done. “I think it’s critical that we make sure it happens,” he added. Finley has expressed his support for the transition to a city manager.
Finley announced a date for the special election will be announced at the March 13 city council meeting. “On March 13, we will have a date in the early part of May, on a Tuesday where the vote will occur — unless something dramatically changes that we don’t foresee happening,” the mayor stated.
Toyota Field success
In addition to addressing updates to the city manager proposal, the city council welcomed two presentations regarding Toyota Field. In the first presentation, Adam Nelson from Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors presented the companies audit for the city of the venue revenue reports from BallCorps on Toyota Field. According to Nelson, the audit successfully “noted no variances in dollar amounts reported by BallCorps”.
A Ballcorps representative, next, gave a presentation on the performance of Toyota Field in 2022. Overall, Toyota Field proved a valuable asset to city functions by hosting a variety of events including the Christmas spectacular, a crawfish festival, the Big Ol’ Ballpark Fair, high school baseball games, an NCAA Division I football game, the Artemis I splashdown watch party, an Auburn University baseball game, and much more. 2022 saw the launching of The Trash Panda Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) “dedicated to educating promoting healthy lifestyles through sport and to positively impact communities in North Alabama.”
The Trash Pandas posted outstanding statistics last season winning First Half and Second Half Division Titles, eight former trash pandas making their MLB debut, Manager Andy Schatzley winning Southern League Manager of the Year, and Groundskeeper Charlie Weaver winning MiLB Groundskeeper of the Year.
BallCorps’ total payment to the city totaled to $1,403,115 for the 2022 year. 2023 promises even more fun with a University of Alabama baseball game in March, Smoke in the Outfield BBQ Festival in August, 27 firework nights, 69 Trash Pandas home games, and more.
Mayor Finley celebrated the success of the stadium in the past year, “You’ve got a great team, and thanks for all you’re doing. As you said, it’s a community venue and it continues to be that. So, thank you.”
The city’s approval of another $15,357 out of a total $30,000 for Phase I Toyota Field improvements later in the meeting is expected to contribute to the success of the venue in the new year.
Other items approved by the council include the following:
- Authorizing purchase of lights for Hexagon pickleball courts and ball fields for $85,800 and $206,900, respectively, from Musco Sports Lighting
- Bids to be issued for lighting installation on Dublin Soccer Field No. 5
- Annual appropriations with the Community Free Dental Clinic for $2,500, Land Trust of North Alabama for $5,000, the Madison City Community Orchestra for $2,500, and the National Children’s Advocacy Center for $20,000
- Authorization of payments to Barge Design Solutions for $21,978.21 for work performed on Wall Triana and I-565 intersection improvements, to Carcel & G Construction for $31,544.38 for the Hughes Road construction, and to Wiregrass Construction for $51,673.97 for work performed on the Middle School Infrastructure Project
- Final payment in acceptance of AMIC Settlement Claim No. 055774 for $43,490.30 for several city properties
- Transportation agreement with the Madison Board of Education for the Dublin Park Eggstravaganza on April 8, 2023 and for the Dublin Park Independence Day event on July 3, 2023
- Authorization of Professional Services with OHM Advisors for engineering design on Balch Road and Gooch Lane Intersection for $156,700, Croy Engineering for design services on Bradley Street Improvements for $178,940, and SAIN Associates, Inc. for engineering design services on Old Madison Pike Widening and Browns Ferry Rd Overlay for $180, 915
- Acceptance of quote from Nearmap US, Inc. for a subscription for aerial photos and AI vector for the Engineering Department for $8,200
- Authorization of changes to job classification plan for Human Resources to incentivize applicants to positions like crossing guard and lifeguard that are historically difficult to fill
- Authorization of a Restaurant Retail Liquor License from J & T Hall, LLC for the Lanier House at 20 Martin Street
- First Reading of vacation of utility and drainage easement at 219 Coach Lamp Drive in Willow Creek Subdivision
- Approval of Permissive Use Agreements with The Village of Oakland Springs Neighborhood Association, Inc and with SS Madison, LLC of The Avenue for signage in the respective communities
- Professional Services Agreement with ArcSpace Studio for preparation of a Master Plan for the Farley-Wann House at 225 Mill Road for $17,600
- MOU for the Handle with Care program that discreetly notifies the school system of a child’s exposure to trauma and works with the Madison Board of Education, the City of Madison and The National Children’s Advocacy Center