City works deal with GSP to provide residents free parking at beaches
By John Mullen
It’s official. Orange Beach residents will be able to get two decals for free parking at Gulf State Park beach access points when the park is able to activate pay kiosks at four points in the city.
The city council OK’d the agreement with the state park at its joint work and regular session on April 20. Residents can also buy a third pass for $25 but each household will be limited to a total of three.
The agreement between the two includes maintenance at the access points by Orange Beach and the state will pay $25,000 a quarter to the city for the services. Gulf State Park will make the first payment on Aug. 1
“ADCNR will also pay the city of Orange Beach for actual costs incurred (including labor and materials) for providing routine maintenance services for beach and beach access locations at the Gulf State Park,” the agreement states.
Among the services the city will provide at the Alabama Point, Cotton Bayou, Romar and Shell Beach access points includes janitorial and housekeeping services as well as any needed maintenance of the facilities at each. The city will continue to groom and rake all state beaches in Orange Beach as well as continue to provide lifeguard services.
Gulf State Park will be responsible for providing electricity to the facilities.
The Gulf State Park pay parking kiosk have been in place for about two months but the state is still working out kinks in the program.
Mayor Tony Kennon said he and other city officials have been working with the state park to get free parking for residents.
That’s (the beaches) not ours but we have been working out something with the state on residents of Orange Beach having free use of those parking spaces. I think they are supposed to crank up charging on April 23,’’ Mayor Tony Kennon said at the April 6 City Council meeting. I don’t know that by then all of the mechanics of how it will actually work will be in place.”
“We’re on the tail end of this,” Kennon said then. “I don’t know if we can have our decals registration done by that date. If we can we will. But don’t hold us to it because we’re somewhat at the mercy of state and their progression.”
A new program will involve actual physical residences passes for the free program.
“What we are going to hopefully see is two decals per households,” Kennon said. “Households means you have an Alabama driver’s license with an Orange Beach address and there has to be a resident dwelling on that property. You have to live here you have to have made the effort to be part of our community. There’s no way a large number of property owners and residents could be accommodated. The numbers were overwhelming and there would be no reason to charge for parking because it would be full of our folks.”
City Administrator Ken Grimes said there would be options for nonresidents to buy long-term passes.
“When they are ready to release this and it will be very soon, there will be options for those who do not live in Orange Beach to buy an annual pass,” Grimes said. “I believe that number is still fixed at $100 for a year. That gets you parking at any beach access owned by the state park. Otherwise, it comes down to a daily or hourly. You can use credit cards or cash but it does not give change. You have to have exact change.”
Grimes said city officials insisted that the funds gathered be put back into Gulf State Park and some of those funds would reimburse the city for repairs at the beach accesses and Backcountry Trail parking and boardwalk maintenance.
“The funds from the parking we’ve been assured by the state that they do stay in Gulf State Park,” Grimes said. “That is important for the state park itself and ultimately how they operate. Those repairs I mentioned would be a reimbursement program coming from those funds generated by parking and hopefully repairs can be done quicker so the public’s not seeing a board missing or a plumbing issue and things like that.”
Canal Rd. Expansion
The ultimate goal for completion of this project is Memorial Day but some of the ancillary work may still be undone when that date rolls around.
“We hope that Canal Road will be done by Memorial Day,” Kennon said. “Our goal is we have to finish a little bit of shoulder work and what’s left on that south side this week. Then they’ll come in and repave and restripe. Then we’ll come back and repave the whole five lanes. We’ll come back and temporarily stripe it again and at that point we hope that is done before Memorial Day. If we get lucky and they get it all in before Memorial Day, great. But if anything’s left off it will be the permanent striping which would move until after the summer.”
While Memorial Day is the traditional start of the summer season, Grimes said that the city is already experiencing summer-like numbers in visitors and traffic. Kennon said it will only intensify as summer draws nearer.
“We’ve still got a busy summer coming,” Kennon said. “There’s no doubt in my mind short of something catastrophic we’re doing to see record numbers. It’s coming and we’ve got to prepare for it and we as a city are going to do everything we can do to move traffic, to do what we need to do. We’re trying to bring on more officers right now and we need more officers because of the number of people that are here.
Orange Beach is not alone in frustration over delayed payments from FEMA for Sally cleanup costs.
“We have $14 million sitting out there we’re trying to get reimbursed for the city of Orange Beach,” Kennon said. “Hopefully, we are rallying with all the mayors in the county, county commissioners and there was some in Mobile affected with our governor and hopefully we’re going to find out what the holdup is. But $14 million is a lot of money.”
It’s having a ripple effect on other improvements city leaders have plans on getting started and completing as quickly as possible.
“The things we had on the drawing board to do right away are put in jeopardy because we have a reserve amount we feel comfortable having,” Kennon said. “This money should come back into our coffers. We don’t need to be an antagonist. I do think it’s important that people understand there are things which we want to get done right away as well as being frugal in these times and how we spend our money and the timing of how we spend our money. The economy is roaring to me which is not sustainable which scares me. At the same time, we want to make very sure that we maintain a reserve in case we get another storm this summer.”
During the regular meeting, council:
• Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of two pickup trucks for the Utilities Department for $80,700 in the form of two 2021 Ford F-150 Pickup Trucks at $40,350 each.
• Passed a resolution awarding the bid for a message board for the Public Works Department to Safety Zone Specialists in the amount of $16,375.
• Passed a resolution awarding the bid for 2021 Roadway Resurfacing to Roads of Northwest Florida in an amount not to exceed $429,000.
• Passed a resolution authorizing execution of a professional services agreement with Jody Hodo for softball coaching services.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a service agreement with Harbor Communications to connect fiber to the new Adult Fitness Center.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of fitness equipment for the Adult Fitness Center currently being built through Sourcewell in the amount of $163,153.
In session, council discussed:
• An interagency agreement for cooperative services at the Gulf State Park.
• Setting a public hearing to declare 22 vessels as abandoned after Hurricane Sally and authorizing disposal. The date suggested was April 20.
• A resolution authorizing a franchise for Armor Environmental to remove and dispose of commercial solid waste and to remove and transport construction and demolition debris.
• A resolution authorizing execution of professional services agreements for special needs aides for the Expect Excellence program.
• A resolution awarding the proposal for the Edward H. Carroll, Sr., Kids Park Playground to Playworld Preferred.
• Resolution authorizing the execution of a covenant of purpose, use and ownership with the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council for the Orange Beach North Sewer Force Main Upgrade. The Restore Act SEP sub-award agreement requires that this covenant be executed ensuring the city improves real property utilizing federal funds and therefore the federal interest in said project/improvements for the estimated useful life.
• An ordinance to update police fees for special events and parades.
• Set a public hearing and first reading for an ordinance for CoastAL Beach Development’s project planned on the beach by a company owned by the Flora-Bama owners and the city. Suggested date was April 20.