During Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the Council unanimously approved a contract for the construction of Dinius Park, a proposed City park that will be located on East Glenn Avenue.
The contract between the City of Auburn and Adams Construction and Associates, Inc. allows for construction to begin on the park in the future, according to the City Council's ePacket.
The park is set to be located at 1435 E. Glenn Ave., near Auburn High School's Duck Samford Stadium. The park was part of the City's Parks and Recreation and Cultural 2018 Master Plan.
Ward 2 Council member Kelley Griswold had questions about the proposed park, specifically with some certain items that were removed from the project due to budget constraints. Rock climbing walls and pathways were among the items that have been cut from the plan's design.
City Engineer Alison Frazier stated that some of the features that have been removed from the park's designs will be provided through City services. Becky Richardson, who is the director of the City's Parks and Recreation department, said the City will improve the park’s trails gradually over time.
Dinius Park has now been fully funded except for a playground which is expected to be built in the future. The playground is the last remaining aspect of the project which would require the City Council's approval.
The land and the majority of the money for the park was donated to the City from the Dinius family, Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said. The Dinius family donated around $700,000, while the City is spending around $100,000, said City Manager Jim Buston.
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Before any issues were brought before the Council, though, Anders made his typical remarks. He began Tuesday’s meeting by congratulating the City of Auburn's August’s employee of the month and commemorating various City employee milestones. Anders also recognized in his announcements Auburn Junior High School student Kounte Threadgill, who saved the lives of his family members when their duplex caught fire.
“He’s an incredible young man,” Anders said. “[We’re] certainly proud of the young man who was very courageous. Thank you, Kounte, for being a great example to all of us.”
Ward 3 Council member Beth Witten wanted to recognize East Alabama Medical Center for how the hospital has handled the coronavirus pandemic. EAMC has seen a consistent decrease in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 since mid-August, according to the hospital's website.
Witten also thanked the bars who elected to close downtown last week. 17-16 Bar and Southeastern Bar elected to voluntarily close their doors out of precaution of rising Auburn University student COVID-19 cases.
“As long as we can keep the numbers down at EAMC, I believe we’re doing what we set out to do back in March,” Witten said.
The Council unanimously approved the City’s biennial budget. Council members held multiple meetings during the previous week to finalize the proposed budgets for 2021 and 2022.
The budget will provide better retirement benefits for City employees, Buston said. A classification of employees, Tier II employees, will now receive the benefits that a different sect of employees, Tier I, have received. One of the benefits now available to both Tier I and Tier II employees is the ability to apply unused sick leave toward retirement.
Buston later stated that the City has had recent issues with hiring new police officers. In an attempt to bring in more applicants for the job, the City is increasing pay to officers. Buston said that some other nearby cities pay their police officers more than Auburn does, as well.
“With these changes, [we will be] fifth in the state in terms of benefits,” Buston said.
The budget also allows for a cost-of-living adjustment for public service employees — partly as a way to thank the many City employees that showed up to work every day during the pandemic, without being recognized by the City, Buston said.
During the Citizens’ Open Forum, the portion of the meeting when residents are given time to air their concerns or thoughts, an Auburn University student talked about a petition that, as of publication, has 258 signatures urging the City to strengthen its public COVID-19 protocols.
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