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Decatur to study downtown parking
City also OKs acoustic paneling for pavilion
By Tiffeny Owens
The Decatur Daily

Decatur city councilmen unanimously agreed Monday to pay for acoustic panels at Ingalls pavilion and a downtown parking study, but differed on guidelines for volunteer board appointments.

In two 5-0 votes, the council approved spending $36,486 for panels to improve sound quality inside Ingalls pavilion and $19,200 to hire a consultant to study downtown parking needs.

The acoustic panels are being purchased at the recommendation of Greenbriar, Tenn., sound engineer Jim Hall Acoustics Research, which studied the cavernous facility on Alabama 20.

The panels will hang from the pavilion’s ceiling to absorb sound and improve acoustics at the public conference center. Several groups that have held events at the pavilion complained their speakers could not be heard clearly because of echoes bouncing off the metal roof and concrete floor, Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Dunlap said.

“The sound system works fine; it’s just the acoustics that aren’t good,” Dunlap said.

The Parks and Recreation Department will install the panels, he said.

The council also agreed to hire Tim Haahs Engineers and Architects of Alpharetta, Ga., to study downtown short- and long-term parking needs. City Planner Karen Smith said the firm specializes in downtown parking but does not sell parking metering or services related to parking decks.

“We have a national chain restaurant (Mellow Mushroom) opening soon, the second phase of the arts college and anticipate more retail coming,” Smith said. “We want to stay ahead of the curve in regards to the available parking downtown.”

While the council approved the measures with little discussion, new guidelines proposed by Mayor Don Kyle created nearly half an hour of back-and-forth discussion among District 1 Councilman Billy Jackson, residents of his district, Kyle and other council members.

At issue was whether the city should ensure district representation on certain boards or select who it believes is the best candidate, regardless of district residency. The new guidelines state districts will not be considered in the selection process, but the council would “endeavor to make appointments that represent the best interests of the city.”

In voting against the new guidelines, Jackson said he supported the aspects related to better public notification of open board seats but was concerned district representation would not be guaranteed. Councilmen Roger Anders, Gary Hammon, Charles Kirby and Chuck Ard voted in favor of the new guidelines.

“Volunteer boards for park and recreation, personnel, planning and zoning affect every part of our city, so we should have someone from each district serving on those boards,” Jackson said.

The revised board application requires three references, while the education and employment information section is optional. District 1 resident Floyd Jones, whose has served on the parks and recreation board, said some potentially good board members may be intimidated by the application process.

“Some boards, like parks and recreation, need someone from each district to explain what’s needed and what’s going on in that district,” Jones said.

District 4 resident the Rev. Barney May said that under the previous system, he had been overlooked for board appointments because he didn’t live within a certain district. He said he supported the new guidelines and wanted the city to seek out and appoint more black, Hispanic and Asian citizens to serve on boards. He proposed council members form a small committee within their respective districts to recruit and train potential board members.

District 1 resident Doris Baker, who once ran against Jackson for council, said she, too, has unsuccessfully applied for vacant board seats and supports the new process.

The guidelines state a pending board expiration will be posted within four months prior to the term expiring, and applications for the seat will be due three months after the expiration notice is posted. A candidate for a board position will be nominated by a council member at one meeting and then voted on at the next one, City Clerk Stacy Gilley said.

Tiffeny Owens can be reached at 256-340-2440 or towens@decaturdaily.com.

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