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Headley blasts city’s information request form

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Selma City Council, Tom Headley raised concerns about the city’s information request form, which he said imposes unreasonable fees and represents a form of “tyranny.”

The form being referenced requires that anyone requesting public documents from the city pay a fee of $1.25 for each page up to 20, with each additional page costing $1.75, and sign a contract stating that they won’t use the information to “create a scandal.”

Headley provided each council member with the rates of nearby cities for printing 75 pages, roughly the amount that the proposed budget ran.

In Montgomery, copies of that many documents would cost $34.50; in Clanton and Demopolis, the price is $19.75; in Prattville, the cost is $39.50; in Selma, the cost is $128.25.

Headley also took exception with the city’s requirement that a specific form be submitted in order to have a request for information acknowledged – Headley provided council members with a relevant excerpt from the Code of Alabama, which makes no reference to a required form or even how such a request should be submitted.

In the end, Selma City Council President Corey Bowie asked Selma City Councilman Carl Bowline to speak with Selma City Attorney Woodruff Jones about addressing the document.

Elsewhere in the meeting, the council mulled a number of contracts, the votes for which Selma City Council members Michael Johnson and Miah Jackson abstained.

The first contract was for $8,000 for Carriage Hill Landscaping to do work around Selma City Councilwoman Jannie Thomas’ ward.

Johnson wondered aloud why laid-off workers previously doing such jobs weren’t contacted about taking on the work, sparking a heated response from Thomas, who asserted that there was ample opportunity for such concerns to be raised before a vote was taken.

“Everybody had a voice,” Thomas said. “No one brought this up before. When it comes to the workers, I’ll go the last mile. I wanted to see those workers back to work. Don’t you [know] I would never overlook the workers?”

Johnson continued.

“If you’re so concerned with the workers, this should have come up first,” Johnson said.

However, Jackson came to Thomas’ defense, noting how much work she put into securing the contract.

“It’s easy to criticize at this point,” Jackson said. “Miss Thomas has been laboring over this for several months. At this point, we need to move forward with this project. It has been too labor-intensive on her part to now say no.”

In the end, the contract was approved.

Two contracts with John Woods Construction were also approved, in the amounts of $11,300 and $4,750, to address more than a dozen potholes in Thomas’ ward, as were two contracts with Colston Outdoors, in the amounts of $4,500 and $4,000, for work on Water Avenue and a wide round of grass cutting.

The council approved a $550 contract with Robert Phillips for garbage pick up in Ward 6 and two contracts in the amount of $500 and $175 with Frank Middleton for work related to the Selma Animal Shelter.

In its consent agenda, the council approved allowing Michael Pettaway to remove the wood from New Live Oak Cemetery at no cost to the city and approved a film permit for Fork Films for a documentary on the sites of the Civil Rights Movement on Saturday, Dec. 14, between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Selma City Council President Pro Tem reminded those in attendance that she will be hosting her annual “State of the Ward Address” Monday at 4:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center and rallied council colleagues to put together care packages for nurses working on Christmas.

Johnson and Thomas both mentioned Van Murphy III, the six-year-old Kingston Elementary student struck by car on Broad Street recently – they noted that the boy is recovering, but called on council members to offer support to his family, who are with the child at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.