Category: Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Applies for Grants to Beef Up Surveillance, Readies to Open Real-Time Crime Center

The city of Birmingham will apply for state and federal grants to purchase new license plate readers and high-definition surveillance cameras, the City Council decided Tuesday.

It also increased its contract for computer-aided dispatch maintenance services. The city plans to launch its “real-time crime center” later this month to combat the city’s rising rate of violent crime. Read more.

Project to Turn Old Ensley High Project Into Apartment Complex Moves Forward

Plans to redevelop the former Ensley High School into a 244-unit apartment complex took another step forward Tuesday, despite the continued misgivings of District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt.

The former high school, abandoned since 2006, was sold in April to the North Carolina-based developer Zimmerman Properties for $50,000. Zimmerman, in conjunction with the Housing Authority of Greater Birmingham, plans to redevelop the property into 244 apartment units for those earning between $16,000 and $45,000 annually.

On Tuesday, in a largely procedural vote, the council approved assignment of the project to 2301 Ensley LP, a single-purpose operation created to “protect the project and (its) grant funds in the event of an accident at other properties in the Zimmerman portfolio,” Cornell Wesley, the city’s director of innovation and economic opportunity, told councilors. Read more.

Birmingham Council OKs Extra Funds for Bus Rapid Transit System

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve using $18 million in American Rescue Plan funds to cover unexpected extra costs in construction of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system.

The BRT project, which will create a 10-mile, higher-speed public transit corridor through 25 neighborhoods, broke ground in December. But last week, Charlotte Shaw, the city’s deputy director of capital projects, told councilors that the project had run into rising costs in the construction industry — a “perfect storm” resulting from COVID-19’s strain on the market. Even with significant cuts, she said, the city would need at least $14 million more to complete the BRT, which originally had been budgeted for $45.8 million. Read more.

Birmingham Council Set to Fund Rapid Transit Project Next Week

The Birmingham City Council is set to allocate $18 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan funding toward the construction of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system. The project, which will create a 10-mile, higher-speed public transit corridor through 25 neighborhoods, broke ground in December. But rising construction costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic had placed significant strain on the project. Read more.

Impasse Between City Council, Mayor’s Office on Scheduling Delays Spending of City Relief Funds

Scheduling problems between the City Council and mayor’s office have slowed Birmingham’s efforts to spend $74 million in federal relief funding.

The city received its money from the American Rescue Plan in May and quickly allocated $17.5 million toward premium pay for city employees who worked through the COVID-19 pandemic. But negotiations over how to spend the rest of the remaining money stalled last month after Mayor Randall Woodfin proposed allocating the money into several different “buckets.”

To Woodfin’s obvious frustration, councilors balked, questioning the apparent arbitrariness of those allocations, particularly to public transportation, and delayed the item until a committee of the whole meeting could be convened. That meeting still hasn’t happened. Read more.

Come Back With More Detail and We’ll Talk: Council Delays Plan for Rescue Money

Birmingham’s efforts to distribute millions of dollars of federal American Rescue Plan funding hit a snag Tuesday after councilors took issue with the vagueness of Mayor Randall Woodfin’s proposed allocations.

Woodfin proposed to divide $53.1 million of the funds into broad “buckets:” $3 million for community-based public safety initiatives, $1.5 million to COVID-19 response, $18 million for neighborhood revitalization projects, $18.75 million for public transportation, $4.5 million for small business support, $1.1 million for employee vacation buyouts, $4.75 million for tourism and $1.5 million for grant writing and professional services to pursue other federal funding sources. Read more.

Birmingham Council Passes the City’s Largest Budget Ever

The Birmingham City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Mayor Randall Woodfin’s FY 2022 budget, making no changes to the proposal presented to them in May.

The $455.5 million budget is the city’s largest to date, indicating a predicted recovery from COVID-19’s impact on last year’s revenues. Woodfin has emphasized that the budget shows the city’s commitment to its employees, including a restoration of merit raises and longevity pay; and its allocations to neighborhood revitalization, including millions for street paving, blight demolition and weed abatement.

The budget does not include the $74 million in federal relief funding from the American Rescue Plan that the city received last month; it will receive a further $74 million next May.

Woodfin told reporters last month that the budget “doesn’t have any pain points” compared to the previous year, which had seen the city reduce or zero out its contributions to various external organizations, including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Railroad Park Foundation and Alabama Symphony.

Those organizations were restored to their FY 2020 funding with the new budget, with two notable exceptions. The Birmingham Zoo and Rickwood Field were still allocated COVID-reduced funding — $500,000 for the zoo, down from FY 2020’s $1.9 million; and $50,000 to Rickwood, down from FY 2020’s $150,211. Read more.