By Crystal McGough
For The Tribune
ARGO — The Argo City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday night to establish a moratorium on new billboard-type sign construction and installation in the city.
According to Ordinance 2017-6-01, the council found that over development of billboard-type signage in the city would “hinder certain city efforts to properly develop the Highway 11 corridor, would be detrimental to the city’s development, and could likely cause significant distractions for the traveling public.”
“There is hereby declared a moratorium on the issuance of all business license and permits for the placement of additional billboard signage throughout the city,” the ordinance states.
While the moratorium is in effect, the city plans to reassess its planning and business license ordinance, policies and procedures concerning the locations of billboards.
City Attorney J. Scott Barnett said that prior to this ordinance, the city has had no formal plan or requirements concerning the construction of installation of billboards in the city.
“That’s the problem,” he said. “There is nothing formal in place.”
Barnett added that the moratorium will be in effect “until such time as (the council has had) an opportunity to review the plan that they are going to put into effect: requirements and so-forth.”
In the ordinance, billboards are described as “any off-premises outdoor advertising sign that is owned by a person, company or legal entity that engages in the renting or leasing of advertising space on signs for dissemination of information or for a business, service, commodity, activity, or entertainment at a location other than the premises on which said sign is located.”
State Department of Transportation signs and other state signs are not included in the moratorium, and the moratorium will not impact current billboards in the city.
The council also unanimously passed a motion to pay $883.56 for hotel costs for Police Chief James Downing to attend a Police Chiefs Conference in Orange Beach. The $300 conference fee had already been paid in advance.
Downing said that there are two conferences held each year, one in Montgomery and the other in Orange Beach.
Additionally, the council authorized $172.50 to have Downing’s new police vehicle, a Ford Explorer, delivered from Montgomery in the case that council members are unable to pick it up on Saturday. Mayor Betty Bradley, Counselor Tony Alldredge and Counselor Ann Brown will be in Montgomery Saturday for a League of Municipalities educational program and hope to bring the vehicle back to Argo with them without having to spend money on its delivery.
In other city news, Argo Fire Chief Mike Platts gave notice to the city that he had accepted a full-time position at another fire department, but also requested that the council consider allowing him to stay on part-time as fire chief at the Argo Fire Station.
“I’ve been here 27 years, fire chief the last 16 years, but it has become a financial necessity for me to figure out another income,” Platts said during pre-council. “I was offered another job and I went ahead and took the job. It’s another fire department job.”
Platts said that at his new job, he would be working every third day and would start off at nearly the same level of income as he is currently making after 27 years in Argo.
“It’s a hard decision because I’ve been here for so long,” he said. “With me working every third day, that would be a primary job. What I propose to do is to continue to stay here as fire chief on the days that I’m not there.”
Platt said that during previous administrations, he had worked with the cities of Leeds and Springville every third day, for 12 years total, while still working as Argo Fire Chief. He also said that many other fire departments have similar setups.
“We did it very successfully and progressed forward during that time really well,” he said. “It isn’t until the last five or six years that I’ve only been here. I’d like to propose to going back to doing that so I can stay here and be part of the city.”
If the city accepts Platt’s proposition, he said that he understands he would be classified as a part-time employee with no benefits, and added that that would save the city nearly $13,000 per year.
Counselor Gordon (Corky) Massey said twice during a work session prior to the council meeting that he isinterested in the city accepting Platts’ proposal to stay on as a part-time fire chief on a temporary basis to see how it works out.
“Our first obligation is to the public,” Mayor Bradley said. “We have to make sure that they are covered and that the city is covered. That we’re not going to have any problems with getting our paramedics or getting somebody out if there’s an emergency. Our first responsibility is to the public.”
Platts said that he expects to begin his new job in about two weeks.