Head Start program discussed at Clanton council meeting

Published 9:37 am Tuesday, March 26, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

The future of the Head Start program at E.M. Henry Park in Clanton was discussed at the Clanton City Council meeting on March 25. Concerns were raised recently after it was reported that the five-year lease agreement between the City of Clanton and the program had ended, and the new lease amount would be increasing from $1,000 to $4,000 per month for rent and utilities.

Citizens of the West End community, Clanton and Chilton County attended the meeting to express their desire to keep the program afloat, and state reasons for why the program has been so important to the county for 30 years.

“These early education programs are not about just learning their ABC’s or numbers, they are learning how to communicate, talk and express themselves and deal with their emotions,” a citizen of Clanton said during his address to the council during the meeting. “As three- and four-year-olds, they learn how to get along in community together in these programs, so when they are 18, 19 or 20 (years old) they are not picking up guns like they are in Birmingham and killing each other.”

Clanton Mayor Jeff Mims said that he has met with the directors of the Head Start program, which has been operated by Family Guidance of Montgomery since 2020, and he has given them until July to come together with the council to figure out a plan for the future of the building and the program. Mims reaffirmed in the meeting that the program will not be shutting down before then, and there are no plans to shut the program down at all.

“We are going to try to find some way to remedy this, and that is what we plan on doing,” Mims said. “We told them we would give them till July to give us time to figure this out and get a plan together. All of this just hit us about two weeks ago … In the meantime, things are going to keep going on like they have been.”

Another huge concern with the program was the inflated power bill at its building, which will be addressed in the coming months and meetings between the program and the City of Clanton.

“I do not know where the information came that we are shutting the school down, and nobody said that,” Mims said. “We are in negotiations right now with Head Start … We have just spent $30,000 over there trying to fix E.M. Henry by repainting it, fixed the signage, buffed the floors, painted the lunchroom, and that is just stuff we have done this year. Head Start has a room there that they get to use free of charge, and that is going to continue to be that way.”

Also, during the meeting, Phillip Giles was voted in to fill the vacant District 2 seat on the council at the meeting in a 3-2 vote. Councilmembers Awlahjaday Agee, Billy Singleton and Mims voted in favor of Giles’ appointment, and councilmembers Don Driver and Mary Mell Smith voted against it. Giles was approved for the seat in a majority vote, and he will be sworn into the seat within the next few weeks.

In other fallouts from the vacancy, Smith was appointed to the Clanton Water Works and Sewer Board in a unanimous vote during the meeting, filling all spots left open on the city boards following the vacancy.

A rezoning hearing to consider an amendment that would change the property at 1209 Seventh St. South in Clanton from agricultural district to general business district was held during the meeting. Property owner John Manning spoke in favor of the change, and no one spoke against it. The March 25 meeting was the first reading of the ordinance, and another reading will be made at the next council meeting before the ordinance is voted on.

Also, during the meeting, the council:

  • Authorized a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant application through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on behalf of the Clanton Fire Department.
  • Approved a vote to close the Second Ave. North alleyway, located between Sixth St. North and Seventh St. North, to through traffic beginning immediately.
  • Approved the city’s fiscal year 2023 audit and financial statements by independent auditing firm Hull & Russell P.C.
  • Approved an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) for intersection improvements on U.S. Highway 31 at Lomax Drive and New Harmony Road.
  • Authorized a grant application through the T-Mobile Hometown Program for a new stage lighting system at Clanton Corner Park, and authorized a grant application through AARP for a new stage sound system at Clanton Corner Park.