Sometimes large expenditures prove unnecessary.
Members of Shelbyville City Council expressed that feeling — and dissatisfaction in general — over a $210,000 per year contract with Akerman LLC, a national law firm, at a study session Tuesday night.
“Akerman has extensive experience in helping clients identify and maximize federal funding opportunities,” its website states. “Our lawyers and policy advisors have substantial knowledge of federal appropriations and authorization matters and regularly provide clients with avenues to obtain federal funding for projects.”
Akerman guides municipalities through the grant process but they have to apply themselves, City Manager Scott Collins said.
Council member William Christie asked if the firm had actually obtained any grants for the city.
“If Akerman says money is available to the city, who from the city asks for it?” Christie asked. Collins said all grants received were city staff generated.
Council member Marilyn Ewing also asked for clarification on the firm’s actions.
“We spent $210,000 and have zero to show. I can’t do that,” council member Bobby Turnbow said.
Collins asked the council if they wanted to put a vote to renew the $12,500 per month contract on next Thursday’s council agenda for a vote. The contract expired Dec. 31.
“Do any of you want to do a new contract?” city attorney Ginger Shofner asked. “It doesn’t seem that any of you want to go forward with this.”
The council was advised by Shofner that no vote is needed if the expired contract is not renewed.
Collins said he would send a courtesy letter advising Akerman that the city is not renewing the contract.
Other items to be voted on by the council Thursday or in later meetings were discussed.
The demolition and removal of surplus metal buildings northeast of H.V. Griffin Park was discussed.
Those buildings, on the site of an abandoned record and cassette tape manufacturing facility, cannot be moved to other locations and reused by the city, Public Works Director Buck Vallad said. Officials hope to profit from sale of the buildings.
Soccer fields are scheduled to be built in that area, Recreation Director Mike Alsup said.
The Environmental Protection Agency has tested the soil and found it safe, Alsup said. Large numbers of old cassette tapes are buried well underground and present no danger to soccer participants, the council was told.
But the area may be temporarily used for a very different purpose — parking.
Turnbow brought up how six old Shelbyville police cruisers and two city trucks no longer in use being stored behind the former Chamber of Commerce building until sold as surplus.
Storing those and other items in highly visible areas of downtown Shelbyville is unacceptable, Turnbow said.
“Take it, put it in the river,” Turnbow said. “It just doesn’t look good. There’s got to be a better place.”
Turnbow suggested moving the vehicles to the metal buildings near the park.
The vehicles will be removed from downtown in a “timely manner,” Collins said.
Three responses were received to a request for bidders on the next phase of the Riverwalk project, Collins said.
This will include a scenic overlook, Collins said, so it’s especially important to ensure bidders are able to handle such a job.
A recommendation will be presented to the council at its February meeting after Collins contacts each bidder.
The Shelbyville-Bedford County Chamber of Commerce must fully vacate its former headquarters on North Cannon Boulevard by June 12, City Recorder Lisa Smith said. The city’s Building & Codes and Planning departments are to be moved into the facility later this year following renovations.
Several water pipes burst in the ceiling during the Christmas cold wave causing damage to carpet, wallpaper, paneling, and some furniture, Smith said. The cost of repairs hasn’t been determined, but Smith said the city’s insurance is expected to be sufficient.
Collins was planning to talk to a Chamber representative this week about whether the city or Chamber own the damaged furniture.
More decisions about the building are scheduled to be discussed at a city strategic planning session in February.
Homeless advisory committee
The city continues to consider possible appointments to a city-county homeless issues committee.
Shelbyville police officer Letisia Diaz has expressed an interest in serving, Police Chief Jan Phillips said.
Diaz, who works the night shift, has compiled a list with photos of each homeless person in Shelbyville, Phillips said. She has estimated the city has 25 or 26 persons who are homeless.
Collins suggested that city building & codes director Bryan Stevens be appointed to the board.
Bylaws are to be formed and city members named for the Bedford County Listening Committee soon, Mayor Randy Carroll said.
The committee’s goal is to hear and attempt to settle disputes between renters and property landlords in Shelbyville and serve as an advocate for lower-income residents.
City officials are studying a similar program in Knoxville. Another meeting between city representatives and members of Bedford County Listening Project, which is behind the committee’s formation, is planned.
Three new firefighter positions are being requested by Shelbyville Fire Department, Fire Chief Matt Doak said.
A request for a national SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was denied, Doak said. The grant would have funded salaries and supplies for 12 firefighters.
“We’re really short-staffed even with three more firefighters,” Doak said.
The city hopes to begin negotiations soon with engineers for a study on purchasing replacement pumps for Shelbyville’s flood control system, consulting engineer Greg Scott told the council.
Following the year-long study, city officials hope to begin purchasing the pumps in 2024. The pumps cost more than $1 million apiece, the council was told at a December study session.
The new pumps are to be automated, ending the need for Shelbyville Fire Department personnel to manually turn on pumps under sometimes dangerous conditions.
Brittain Street drainage
Collins said the city has been in contact with Nearest Green Distillery over purchasing a small easement in an area with drainage issues on North Brittain Street just off the public square.
The easement contains a sandstone structure atop concrete which Public Works Director Buck Vallad thinks may have been installed in the 1950s.
Nearest Green is planning to develop the property in the future, the council was told.
City IT director Lori Saddler told the council she is contacting internet, telephone and cable TV providers about possible packages for city facilities.
Ewing said she wants to see figures and urged officials not to purchase a “super-expensive” plan.
Saddler explained she’s looking at possibilities including both bundling and separate purchases of various aspects. She said the city has used Spectrum since 2009 and possibilities for change should be investigated every few years.
The current July 4 fireworks display contract — $7,500 each from the city and Bedford County — is available at the same cost as last year, the council was told.