O.B.’s burgeoning population is taxing city resources

By John Mullen
It’s a fact of life that Orange Beach is growing in leaps and bounds with new homes sprouting in formerly empty lots all over East Orange Beach. Combine that with several subdivisions building houses or permitted for houses, two townhouse developments underway and two condo towers under construction and two more approved it is beginning to stretch city services.
“It’s grown and we’re busting out at the seams,” Councilman Jeff Silvers said.
One of the places it’s most evident is the recreation center and the adjoining tennis and aquatic centers.
“We have had numerous workshops about our recreation center complex,” Silvers said. “We have met with some architects and different firms and we’re going to use a couple of those firms to come up with a comprehensive plan for that whole rec center, swim center. We’ll have some exciting plans to show people real soon.”
But that’s not the only area where the burgeoning population is taxing city resources, Mayor Tony Kennon said.
“With our growth, we’ve outgrown our city services to a great degree and we’ve got to get caught up,” Kennon said. “We’ll have to build two new fire stations, expand the police station. We have a very long list of improvements.”
With recreation center complex, City Administrator Ken Grimes said the pressing needs there are another gym and larger play areas for children particularly those in Camp Sunshine.
“The top priority is an additional gymnasium with a full-size court,” Grimes said. “And Camp Sunshine is in a building that is not near big enough because we’ve been renting a portable for a few years.”
He said the city has been looking at changes there for years and the new Orange Beach middle and high school plans had a big impact on starting a new recreation plan.
“Now that the school board is obviously moving forward with seventh and eighth grade and on the high school at a different location that freed us up to say what do we want the rec complex to be,” Grimes said. “Once we got the school project underway, we started talking about the recreation complex.”
Grimes said the city is going to study having a splash pad on the campus as well as a walking path around the perimeter, among other amenities.
The first step, Grimes said, is finding the right design team. There are about three candidates currently working on presentations. Those plans could include a total redo or just some refurbishing of current facilities or even relocation.
“Anything is subject to relocated, renovated or expanded and the reason is we want to keep all those activities close together,” Grimes said. “But we don’t know if we have enough property to make that happen without something going away.”
Orange Beach started out with nine teams and has narrowed it down to three, Lathan and Associates from Hoover, David Architects in Birmingham and Sted McCollough in Orange Beach. Grimes said local contractors would likely end up getting sub-contracts on parts of the project.
On the new fire stations, Grimes said the city would like to replace the modular buildings at The Wharf that housed the former sales office. Station 1 behind City Hall would be expanded to house the resident firefighters and build bays to allow drive-through access for trucks. Orange Beach is also looking at remodeling or rebuilding the fire administration building to the south of Station 1. Grimes said it was the former police department and is not a good set up for fire administration.
On the police side, Grimes said the police department part of the Justice Center is inadequate to house the number of officers the city now employs. The city plans to study how to expand it or build annex buildings on surrounding property the city owns.
Plans are in the works to move the Coastal Resources office to a new facility at the old Walker Marina site east of Sportsman Marina.
In January, the council announced two firms would be hired to design and get the permitting settled to improve the boat basin with some covered slips, seawall, boat ramp and an office and storage building. The cost of this initial project at the property will be about $1.5 million, Coastal Resources Director Phillip West said.
Orange Beach is also studying plans to have a research center on the property for universities to use for marine studies.
To that end, West said, Auburn is going through the RESTORE Act process trying to secure about $9 million to build a 20,000- to 25,000-square foot research facility on the property.
During the regular session the council:
• Gave final approval of a planned unit development by Brett Robinson to build Phoenix Gulf Towers on the Gulf at the west end of town. It’ll contain 192 units combined in two 26-story towers.
• Approved a pair of special events retail liquor license application for Event Concessions, Inc., for “The Wharf Uncorked Wine and Culinary Event” for events on Sept. 13 and Sept. 15.
• Passed a resolution authorizing land transfer and easements with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. When the city’s new wastewater treatment was built it was accidentally built on a Gulf State Park parcel next to a city parcel. The city and the park basically swapped the parcels.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the removal of a sailboat stuck on the beach in the western part of the city. It was actually removed on Aug. 20 after having been stranded on the beach for about a month.
During the work session the council also discussed:
• A resolution awarding the bid for equipment and installation of a Fire Break Force Main. Bids will be opened on Aug. 30
• A resolution awarding the bid for a new sign for the Coastal Arts Center at Orange Beach. Bids will be opened on Aug. 30
• A resolution awarding the bid for Sportsplex fencing. Bids will be opened on Aug. 30
• A resolution to correct a scrivener’s error in an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation for the State to transfer a portion of Highway 180 (Canal Road) to the city.
• A resolution declaring city property surplus and to be sold on govdeals.com. Included are three cars, a pickup truck, two jet skis and a variety of other items including two refrigerators.
• Setting a public hearing for the Gulf Stream planned unit development. The developer seeks to change the exterior to vinyl veneer.
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OBPD promotes Cpl. Brian Kincaid, Sgt. Jeremy Mote and Sgt. Bryan Johnson

Orange Beach Police Chief Joe Fierro announced promotions for Cpl. Brian Kincaid, Sgt. Jeremy Mote and Sgt. Bryan Johnson during the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Chief Fierro said Cpl. Kincaid served with the U.S. Marine Corps for six years, earned a bachelor of science degree from Auburn University, worked for two years as a corrections officer in Tuscaloosa County before working for 10 years at the Northport Police Department. At Northport PD, Cpl. Kincaid served as a firearms instructor, investigator and patrol officer.
“He relocated down here to Orange Beach in 2016 with his wife Emily and his daughter, and now they have two daughters,” Chief Fierro said. “He was promoted to corporal in July of this year and as you can see he brings a lot of experience with him. He is part of our leadership team.”
Sgt. Mote began his career in Georgia as a dispatcher and then a corrections officer with the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office in Conyers, Georgia for four years, Chief Fierro said.
“He received his police certification in Georgia and for 11 years he served as a deputy,” Chief Fierro said. “He is now a sergeant with us, a training coordinator for the department and he has done some instructing for us. He relocated here permanently after we hired him in November 2016. He is now on our SWAT team, and he’s a defensive tactics instructor.”
Sgt. Bryan Johnson began his career in 1996 in Dickson, Tennessee, Chief Fierro said.
“He was a canine handler there, a detective, shift patrol officer and he served two years as the chief,” Fierro said. “He moved here in 2011.”
Sgt. Johnson worked at the Gulf Shores Police Department before moving over to Orange Beach PD in 2014.
“He earned the rank of corporal in 2017 and we just promoted him to sergeant,” Chief Fierro said. “He is our canine coordinator as well.”

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