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15 June 2007

City Intensifies Water Conservation

By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Mayor Johnny Smith and the city of Jacksonville are asking residents to intensify water conservation efforts. During Monday night’s city council meeting, as council members pored over the latest drought meters, Smith put forth the new plan.

“We are again asking all citizens and businesses to cut out all non-essential water usage and no washing of vehicles at a private residence,” said Smith. “We’re still going to allow some watering, but again only at night between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.”

Nights when residents can water will depend on where they live. The northwest and southeast portions of Jacksonville can water their lawns and gardens, only if necessary, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Residents and businesses in the northeast or southwest Jacksonville are restricted to Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. No one is allowed to water on Sunday.

“You can water those things that are necessary and only those things that are necessary,” said Smith. “We may have to get to the point where we totally cut out the watering.”

The restrictions are still voluntary, but, as Smith told the council, may become mandatory with penalties for violators in the near future.

The drought has also put the Fourth of July fireworks into question. Calhoun County is one of 33 Alabama counties placed in a drought emergency by the Alabama Forestry Commission and Governor Bob Riley, making it against the law “for any person to set fire to any forest, grass, woods, wildlands or marshes, to build campfires or bonfires, to discharge any type of fireworks except over water, or to burn trash or other material that may cause a forest, grass or woods fire until the declaration is lifted.”

The council decided to request a permit for the Fourth of July Celebration, but, as Mayor Smith told the council, they may not receive permission and even then, they may decide not to take the risk.

“If we make this application, we may still have to call this off, but if we don’t make the application, we won’t be able to do it at all,” said Smith. A meeting is set for the week prior to the celebration, scheduled for July 3, to make the final decision.

The council revisited the city’s noise ordinance during the meeting, taking an executive session to discuss the lawsuit filed by Rev. Wesley Sewell against the city. In Sewell’s suit, he claims the noise ordinance is unconstitutional, barring him from preaching using amplification on the sidewalks of Jacksonville.

Sewell visited the city in March of 2005 and again in March 2006. On both occasions he was asked to turn down the volume on the 10-inch speaker he uses because it was violating the noise ordinance. He was never given a citation for the violation.

The revised ordinance 481 will now make it “unlawful to create an unreasonably loud disturbing or unnecessary noise which either injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of a person of ordinary sensibilities.”

Jacksonville Fire Department had to say goodbye to a faithful volunteer during the council meeting. Councilman Charlie Notar requested to be removed from the list of volunteer firefighters and EMS because of “age and health reasons.”

“I really want to thank all the guys at the fire department. They’ve helped me to become a better person. They’ve allowed me to serve and you can’t ask for a better bunch of guys to be in charge of our safety,” said Notar.

His request was granted with regrets and Mayor Smith presented Notar with a certificate of recognition for more than 25 years of service to the fire department.

See story at The Jacksonville News's website: .

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