A wayward truck recently found its way into the boat basin where the city plans to put a marina on property it owns east of Sportsman Marina.
By John Mullen
 
January 22, 2018 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA) – The first move may seem like baby steps, but Coastal Resources Director Phillip West envisions big things for city-owned property on Terry Cove.
 
At the Jan. 16 city council work session, the city of Orange Beach discussed initial moves it is planning to bring development to the former Walker Marina property east of Sportsman Marina. The city bought the waterfront parcel in 2005 and uses it now for a disc golf course and a dog park.
 
The council also heard a report from the Orange Beach Animal and Care and Control program and Animal Officer Tom Conerly.
 
Two firms will 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, West said.
 
“We need to find a place to house our marine operations, initially our Coastal Resources operations, and the new historic vessel, the Sea Duster,” West said. “We want to go ahead and permit out the marina because we expect that Auburn and Alabama will be bringing some level of presence. Initially, pretty light and eventually we anticipate that whole property being built out as a research campus.”
 
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 a 25,000-square foot research facility on the property.
 
“The Auburn-led research project has gone through the first round of RESTORE and is in the second round of evaluations,” West said. “That would be a $9 million project that would follow this one. But that’s best case, a couple of years down the road.
 
But for now, the focus will be on the boat basin improvements and the city’s building.
“We, initially, need a place for our three vessels and the Sea Duster as well as offices for Coastal Resources staff,” West said. “And, offices for the immediate needs of the universities and whoever else might want to have that type of access.
 
“We’ll go ahead and permit 10 slips, but right now we’re going to build four, three with boat lifts, all covered slips. And get the office building which will have storage space, lab space, meeting space. All that built in. That’s our short-term need.”
 
To start that process, the city will sign a personal services contract with McCollough Architecture to design the first building for the site. West said he anticipates immediate interest from universities so the size of the building isn’t set.
 
“We gave them a range because over the next few weeks we’re going to know if we have immediate tenants or not,” West said. “Basically, a minimum of 2,500 square feet up to 4,500 square feet. If the universities can immediately have offices and lab space then that’s just going to facilitate all the projects we work on together. And plan to work on. Some of those being considered are under RESTORE and NRDA as well.”
 
Work on the marina and other infrastructure will be done through TTL, a firm the city keeps on retainer to help with projects.
 
“We gave them a task order to do the design and permitting of the seawall, boardwalk, piers, slips and lifts,” West said. “We’re going to install a boat launch for us there and they’ll handle that as well.”
 
West said he hopes the work can be completed before the end of the year and would like to get started by as earlier as April. The city bought the five-acre parcel after Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
 
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to occupy it in 2018 but we’ve got to get going,” he said.
 
The property was first bought under Mayor Steve Russo from Astrata Land Company for $7.5 million cash, $2.1 million land swap for lots in the Callaway subdivision on Canal Road for a total value of $9.6 million, City Administrator Ken Grimes said.
 
TRAP, NEUTER, RETURN
The way animal control officer Tom Conerly reads the numbers, the new Trap, Neuter, Return effort by the city to control stray and feral cat populations in Orange Beach, the first year was a great success.
Orange Beach agreed to partner with the Orange Beach Animal Care and Control Program back in September. The city bought the first 20 traps and donated $1,100 to the newly formed charitable organization.
 
“If you do the math, those 51 females we have spayed and put back, we have prevented the birth 472 kittens in that first year,” Conerly told the council. “It’s a pretty incredible impact. We love telling the story, it’s a great project and it’s a great program.”
 
Conerly said the city previously wasn’t in the cat business and he believes old methods of removal or euthanizing strays and ferals doesn’t work anyway.
 
“It aims to control the cat population of Orange Beach, strays, ferals and unowned cats,” he said. “We return them to where they were trapped. That’s the key to the program. Previously it was thought you trap and move them somewhere else or you euthanize them and that’ll help with the problem. But it doesn’t. These colonies are very territorial and they protect their territory. If you remove them more opportunistic cats move in to take advantage of the resources.”
 
Each cat trapped is brought to a local veterinarian office and if it has a collar or a microchip, the vets do nothing but return it to the area where it was caught.
 
If it hasn’t been spayed or neutered, vets perform that service then also vaccinated for rabies and distemper and respiratory viruses, and treated for internal parasites, fleas, ticks and ear mites. Then the mark the cat in case it’s trapped again they’ll know which ones have been treated.

“We remove about a quarter inch of the tip of the left ear so they are readily identifiable that they’ve been through the process,” Conerly said.
 
The program is going to concentrate a new effort at the western edge on the beach road were there is a thriving colony at about three condo complexes. Donations to keep the program going are always helpful, Conerly said.
 
To donate visit the Orange Beach Animal Care and Control Program’s Facebook page
 
During the work session the council also discussed:
 
• Buying three 2018 Chevrolet Silverado pickups for Public Works at a total of $84,550. There is one each for the street, landscape and refuse divisions.
 
• Resolutions for bids for a Utility Terrain Vehicle, two personal watercrafts and trailer, a pickup truck and cardiac monitors for the fire department.
 
• Setting a public hearing date of Feb. 20 for a deck addition at Big Wave Dave’s restaurant on the west end of the city limits on beach road.
 
• And setting a public hearing date of Feb. 6 for Sunset Park planned unit development on Canal Road. The new subdivision is planned for the current site of Sunset Mobile Home Park.