Several citizens brought concerns to the Council during the citizens’ open forum portion of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Most concerns were about the recently announced closure of East Alabama Medical Center’s HealthPlus Fitness Center, which includes a heated saltwater pool.
Many citizens mentioned the pool in their remarks. Several said many community members use this pool for exercise to help with health problems such as ALS and arthritis. A physical therapist was among the citizen crowd and spoke about the benefits of the pool.
There are other heated, indoor pools in the Auburn-Opelika area, but citizens had concerns over the temperature and offerings at those pools, such as therapy and water fitness classes.
The Auburn Parks and Recreation Master Plan includes plans to add an aquatic center to the Boykin Community Center, though the Council did not know whether it would meet the needs of the citizens that spoke Tuesday night.
Mayor Ron Anders said that the current Parks and Recreation plan, which is a $40 million five-year plan put into place last year, evaluated the community’s needs at the time, taking into consideration HealthPlus, which was not expected to close at the time.
“Here we are in year one, beginning the process of building some of these new facilities and the game has changed on us,” Anders said.
The Council and City staff said they would contact the EAMC to speak about options for keeping the pool open either permanently or until a similar facility can be built.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
“HealthPlus was a place I spoke of at my dad’s funeral,” Anders said. “He lived there for three hours a day, three or four days a week. His community was there. He loved that place and loved the people he worked out with and he saw at his time there.”
The Council also unanimously passed an ordinance that makes it illegal to trespass in vehicles. State law currently only covers trespassing related to real estate property such as a home or business, said Municipal Judge Jim McLaughlin.
The judge said the need for this ordinance mainly comes from the need to combat one man’s actions that have recently scared college students and other community members. The man has repeatedly gotten into vehicles with the vehicle’s owner and made them take him places under false pretenses, McLaughlin said.
The municipal court and police have been working to prevent individuals from doing something like this, but there were no laws or ordinances that apply to the situation. Police will now be able to charge offenders with violating the ordinance.
The punishment for violating the ordinance will be the standard ordinance violation punishment, which includes up to a $500 fine and up to six months in county jail, McLaughlin said.
Ward 2 Council member Kelley Griswold removed the contract for signage and wayfinding for $55,500 with Gonzalez- Strength & Associates from the consent agenda to talk about it individually. This contract would not provide physical signs, instead, the city would receive templates for signs and wayfinding materials.
“So, the end product of this is a piece of paper and some templates?” Griswold said. “I think this is more in the lines of a Boy Scout or Eagle Scout project than it is a $55,000 expenditure from the City.”
During the discussion, Ward 4 Council member Brett Smith said he thinks the wayfinding materials have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which City Manager Jim Buston said was correct.
During the Committee of the Whole before the Council meeting, Griswold brought up the city’s lack of procedure for naming city facilities such as parks and buildings. He proposed that city staff create a procedure for naming city facilities for the Council to then approve.
Council members debated criteria that should be used when choosing a name for a facility such as to whether living people should be able to have buildings named after them.
“I believe that if people are alive and worth honoring, we should honor them and we shouldn’t wait for them to pass on to do that,” Anders said. “They should enjoy that honor; their families should enjoy that with them. If we feel so strongly that we’re going to put their name on a building, we shouldn’t wait for them to be gone to do that.”
Though there have not been notable problems with naming buildings in the past, Griswold said that the city is now in a unique position, with so many new facilities coming online in the next few years. Griswold's proposal to create procedures was denied in a 5 to 4 vote.
Ward 8 Council Member Tommy Dawson suggested that Council members go home and Google what policies other cities have in place for naming city facilities.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman