By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Discord worked its way into the June 25 Atmore City Council meeting, as one member of the panel demanded that city ordinances regarding abandoned vehicles be enforced, and another demanded that he be given more respect in administering his district.
The complaints weren’t raised until after a Mobile-based non-profit had elicited a promise of support in its effort to help lessen the area’s drug problem and a local church had been granted use of a city park for an evening of praise and worship.
Emma Perryman, outreach coordinator for Drug Education Council Inc., told the council that the anti-drug organization, which provides services in all 67 Alabama counties but direct services in an eight-county area that includes Escambia, has the money to implement a program here but has few contacts.
“We have the funds to provide these services and we have been trying to make some traction and gain some ground here in Escambia County,” Perryman said. “We ask for your support and, more importantly, for you to help us identify some venues for programs or organizations that can benefit from the services we provide.”
She confirmed that the group was currently working with Atmore Area YMCA to get its message across but added that she hopes to form more local partnerships.
“We are going to be working with them, in concert with some other agencies, to provide prevention services,” she said. “There are some other groups we are hoping to partner with to collaborate and coordinate our services. So many times, people try and re-invent the wheel. Where you might have one piece, I might have another piece, and if we can put all the pieces together, hopefully we will have a whole.”
After Roz Henley passed out gift bags containing literature and other small items to council members and media members, Perryman received an implied statement of support from the entire council, as each member either answered aloud in the affirmative or nodded his or head in agreement.
The council quickly took care of an annual housekeeping measure — ratifying updated municipal policies on debt management, cash management and investment — then heard a request from a representative of Unity Baptist Church for use of Tom Byrne Park as the sight of a Saturday, July 28 gathering for the sole purpose of bringing people together to worship.
“Unity Baptist and other churches are going to start an annual thing, have it where we just come together,” the unidentified church spokesman said. “This year we have local people that are going to be singing, doing praise and worship, and it’s for anybody who wants to come. We want to make it an annual event; we’d like for it to get large enough we can bring in some bigger-name people to do this praise and worship each year.”
The event is set to begin at 5 p.m. and last until 8:30 p.m. The request gained the council’s unanimous approval.
The winds of discord began to blow when District 4’s Susan Smith asked to speak.
Smith told of at least one incident where people have set up housekeeping in a house that was heavily damaged by fire; she complained about the condition of the sidewalk on Pine Street; and she was almost livid about what she said was a preponderance of abandoned cars and cars that are advertised for sale in the yards of local homes.
“There was one place where within three blocks, I counted 13 cars that had been abandoned,” she explained. “One of them has been there for two years; there’s a tree now growing out of it, and it hasn’t been tagged since 2008. I’m thinking it’s time to quit talking and do something about it.
“We’re talking about making the city look better, talking about getting a historic district, but you look at the city and you’ve got people parking cars down here with ‘for sale’ signs on them, you’ve got old cars in the yard.”
The councilwoman said she has received numerous phone calls from a constituent who was also upset about the lack of enforcement. Smith said she’s angry because she reports the lack of enforcement but nothing is ever done about it.
“If it had been in my neighborhood, I would do the same thing as this lady has done to me for the last week and a half, call three, four, five, six times a day,” she said, agreeing that she was not happy with the situation. “Yes, I’m upset. I don’t like getting calls at nine o’clock at night. I’m just asking the council that, if we make ordinances, let’s enforce them.”
Mayor Jim Staff replied that city officials were trying to work out the problem before they became legal matters.
“It’s just a lot easier if you can make them do it, rather than carrying them to court,” he said. “If you carry them to court, it takes about a year to get it taken care of.”
When Staff started call for a motion to adjourn, District 2 council rep Jerome Webster asked to address the mayor. First, he asked the entire council if any members had heard that Publix or Tracker were planning to open a store here, to which the mayor replied that “there are rumors” that such plans were being considered.
Webster then turned to Anne Powell, a member of the audience, and asked if she had gotten “her stuff,” to which Powell replied that the “stuff” to which he was referring had been turned over to city officials who had passed it on to Don Taylor, who coordinates and directs the city’s Little League program at Houston Avery Park.
“I brought it to city hall, and it was turned over to [City Clerk Rebecca Smith],” Powell said. “Now I understand that it was in turn turned over to Don Taylor. I don’t know why, but he’s got it.”
When Staff admitted that he had turned over the unspecified “stuff” to Taylor, Webster vented his frustration.
“Well, you know mayor, that’s my district,” he said. “Every time I turn around …”
Staff began to explain that Taylor was going to have an unspecified group of youngsters do some needed repairs at the park, when the councilman stopped him.
“Can I finish?” he asked before continuing. “It seems like every time something happens on that side in that district, Don Taylor gets it. I got elected to the city council in District 2. Don Taylor has got the keys to the bathroom and all this and that, and I guess he should have got elected instead of me.”
When Staff replied that, “[Taylor] didn’t run,” Webster wound up his complaint and the meeting was adjourned.
“That’s my whole point,” the council member said. “I need that little respect. That’s all I ask.”