Piedmont City Council approves recreational trail program grant request

PIEDMONT – During a public hearing prior to its work session and regular meeting on Tuesday, the Piedmont City Council heard a presentation from East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission representative Heather Graham.

Graham is working with the city on a recreational trail program grant for improvements to the Chief Ladiga Trail. Those improvements include resurfacing and repaving the trail, as well as improving road crossings and replacing old pedestrian crossing signs with newer ones.

Graham said the estimated the cost of the project is $570,303.

“The grant request we are making is for the maximum, and that is $400,000,” she said. “The grant match the city would be providing would be at total of $170,303. Separate from this cost, if the grant is funded, East Alabama Commission would ask for a grant addendum fee of five percent. That would be the $28,515.15. That fee would only be included if the grant were funded.”

The council approved a resolution for the grant during its regular meeting. University of Alabama Research and Economic Development representative DeForest Tuggle is writing the grant.

Also during its regular meeting Tuesday, the council approved a right-of-way ordinance concerning vacated alleyways and streets no longer in use. The council tabled two items for its next meeting, including the approval of a new contract for the Piedmont Rescue Squad and the purchase of a John Deere sidearm tractor.

Bills for payment in the amount of $785,925.82 were approved, as were minutes from the previous meeting.

During the visitors comments portion of the meeting, local resident Franklin Garrett approached the council concerning the upkeep of a cemetery located behind Thankful Baptist Church. Garrett said there is no clear title or deed to the property and questioned who should maintain it, the church or the city.

Garrett said the church has been keeping up with the cemetery’s maintenance.

“For a number of years, we have been trying to see who actually owns this property. We’ve been down to the courthouse and talked with Karen Roper several different times. We’ve not been able to determine who owns the property. We never could find any clear information,” Mayor Bill Baker said. “Ben Ingram (of the Piedmont Historical Society) did approach the council at our last meeting and presented information to us, which was allowing us to upkeep the cemetery, cut the grass, get on the property and handle it.

“In the meantime, Councilman (John) Lawrence contacted me over the weekend and he told me there were deeds to the property through the church and that the church had been upkeeping the property. I told John we were not aware of any deeds at all.

“If there’s something we need to do a little more research on, we’re not trying to take anything away from anybody. We were just trying to maintain the property not knowing the church was doing so.”

Baker facilitated setting up a meeting with the church deacons, Dr. Ingram and the city to resolve the issue.

“We’ll get to the bottom of this,” Baker told Garrett. “I think it’s an easy fix. I’ll get back in touch with you after I talk with him (Ingram). I’ll let him know about what you all told us. We have no problem with you keeping the property up. We just want to make sure somebody did. We’re not trying to take property or control property. We just want to make sure that piece of history was taken care of.”

The council also heard from Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce representatives Ashlee Jones and Jakob Williamson. Jones introduced Williamson, who is the new public affairs coordinator at the chamber. Jones, who is also on the Piedmont Arts Council, asked to reserve downtown for New Year’s Eve festivities from 8 p.m. until midnight.

Local resident Jimmy Rogers spoke to the council requesting more police presence on the Ladiga Trail, and Robert Dunbar requested the city look into filling potholes on the streets of Caldwell and Draper.

In closing comments from the council, Baker invited the council to an annual proclamation read at Duggar Mountain Assisted Living on Sept. 12 at 12:30 p.m.

City Clerk Carl Hinton said Piedmont Fire Chief Mike Ledbetter called him regarding bids for fencing to secure the new training facility being constructed near the Piedmont Sports Complex.

Speaking of the complex, Hinton also provided the council a small update on the new lighting there. The plates have been delivered, and all the bolts, hardware, and brackets have been drilled in the poles.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20.

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