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Harbor Cove parking lotBy John Mullen
September 7, 2017 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA) – A city contractor working to fix seepage and improve drainage behind Fire Station 2 had to do some extra repairs in the parking lot of Harbor Cove Condominiums.
 
“If you’ll recall, we had seepage through the retention pond at Fire Station No. 2,” Community Development Director Kit Alexander said. “It was coming through the pond bank on the south side and the east side. It was crossing their parking lot and causing damage.”
 
During the course of constructing a 10-foot wide drainage underneath the parking lot at Harbor Cove, two underground utility lines were severed. The city discussed paying about $5,500 to repair the damage during a council work session on Sept. 5.
 
Also during the work session, council members, the mayor, and citizens discussed raising the lodging tax 2 percent for road improvements to ease the city’s traffic woes. The new money would also help fund the Leave Only Footprints beach cleaning program. It would raise the overall rate in the city to 13 percent.
 
A planned unit development proposal by Gulf Shores Power Sports to locate in Orange Beach was also given a first reading in the work session. The property is on the east side of Zeke’s Marina and currently zoned single-family residential.
 
During the earlier regular session, the city authorized to purchase of two parcels south of near the elementary school for “future development and expansion.” The three parcels were owned by two separate companies and combined are about 2.4 acres. The city paid $58,000 and $42,000 in the land transactions.
 
At Harbor Cove, the city had the new drainage infrastructure built from the south of the pond to an outfall into Terry Cove.
 
“They went in, removed asphalt, excavated beneath the asphalt and put in a significant amount of storm sewer improvements,” Alexander said. “While they were doing that, they cut the electric line for their pole lighting, their parking lot lighting. And they cut the irrigation line.”
Alexander said there were no markings to alert workers the electric and water lines were under the parking lot.
 
“There’s no way of knowing where those are when you’re cutting in asphalt,” she said. “They’d been underground a long time.”
 
Orange Beach initially gave the contract to Blade Construction for a little more than $50,000 and paid Hutchinson, Rauch and Moore $1,800 for the engineering and to supervise the project.
 
On the lodging tax, three of the four council members present – Mayor Tony Kennon and members Joni Blalock and Annette Mitchell – expressed support for the hike. Councilman Jeff Boyd said he would be against it. Council members Jeff Silvers and Jerry Johnson did not attend the sessions.
Kennon said the city would be in a better position to convince the state to work on traffic improvements if it can offer money to help fund the projects.
 
“If we have the money in the bank to build roadways and don’t have to rely on federal and state agencies, number one, it will move quicker because the permitting process shrinks,” he said. “Number two, it’s hard for anybody to say no if you’re paying for it.
 
“You have to have money.”
 
Officials estimate the added tax will raise between $4 million and $6 million a year. Orange Beach collected $15.7 million in lodging taxes in 2016.
 
A total of 11 percent is currently collected in Orange Beach with the city getting 5 percent, the state 4 percent and the Convention and Visitors Bureau gets 2 percent.
 
Kennon said projects the city would like to see completed would be southern evacuation parkway through the state park, formerly called the cross-island connector and bridge over Wolf Bay.
Money has been appropriated for improvements to Canal Road including a second eastbound lane to expand the roadway to five lanes.
 
“Had we not had the $60-plus million of BP money, I don’t know don’t know that Canal Road would be getting done,” Kennon said. “We know how badly we need that, but that’s not enough.”
 
The tax would also support the beach cleaning efforts where the city will spend nearly $1 million on 2017.
 
Also in the regular session, the council discussed:
 
• The upcoming 30th Annual Coastal Cleanup on Sept. 16. There are five sign-up places in Orange Beach, Boggy Point boat launch, Cotton Bayou Beach Access, the Flora-Bama, Alabama Point and Ono Island.
 
• Dollar General postponed its hearing before the council until Sept. 19. The retailer wants to build a store on the west side of Alabama 161 just north of the city’s medical building. The council has not been receptive to the location citing traffic impact on Alabama 161.
 
• Had a second reading of an ordinance regulating the use of storage containers in the city. The new law would limit the time residents and businesses could keep the units on their property with provisions for extensions.
• Agreed to give $1,100 to the Trap, Neuter and Return program for feral cats in the city.
 
• Agreed to pay $7,000 for the excavation of a retention pond on Mulligan Place. The neighborhood pond is where most of the drainage from the city golf course flows to and it was getting overgrown.
 
• In the work session, the council also discussed moving the Nov. 21 meetings back to Nov. 14 so they wouldn’t be in the same week as Thanksgiving.