Ice rink

Downtown Roanoke will soon be home to a temporary ice skating rink that will be open (but not free) to the public sometime in December.

Roanoke City Council Monday approved use of the city's portion of the grass lot on Main Street to be used as home for the rink and also approved grading of the property to assure the lot will be level where the rink is installed.

The measure was approved by a 4-0 vote of the council, with councilmember Tammi Holley abstaining from the vote.

Roanoke Mayor Jill Patterson-Hicks said the details and specifics about when the rink will be installed are still to be determined, but she hopes it will be up and running by the day of the city's Christmas parade on Dec. 11.

A company called KwikRink will provide the synthetic ice surface and the skates that will be available for rent at a price to be determined at a later date.

The city worked in cooperation with the newly-formed Main Street board and the Roanoke Rotary Club to raise the money to pay for the rink rental. The plan is for the rink to remain installed in Roanoke for six to eight weeks depending on use and demand.

The city has also solicited food vendors and other entertainment, such as bounce houses, to set up alongside the rink while it is open.

Recreation center

The city's aging recreation center was a central topic of discussion at Monday's city council meeting. Councilmember Kesa Johnston spoke for several minutes about the importance of the center and of the city's need to make a long-term plan for replacement of the current building.

She mentioned that recreation director Jerri Gabriel has expressed her concerns to the council regarding the building's condition multiple times every year since 2016, with little meaningful response by the council beyond emergency stopgap measures.

The city recently spent more than $100,000 on a new roof for the building and also has had to pay to replace heating and air conditioning systems there.

Johnston said there is still a laundry list of problems with the building, including the floor, the heat, the ceiling, water damage from before the roof was repaired, separated walls and a general unpleasant smell in the building.

"I would not work in there," Johnston said, summarizing the overall conditions.

The most recent issue arose a few weeks ago when small portions of the ceiling in the gym fell to the floor. The building was temporarily closed two weeks ago before the city consulted with a structural engineer to examine the ceiling damage. That engineer said there is no structural damage to the ceiling and that the building is safe for everyday use, so the center has re-opened.

But Johnston said that instead of continuing with expensive repairs to the current building, the city should take steps to find out how the building can be replaced.

"I'd rather put that money into a new, long-term recreation center," she said.

Holiday incentive pay

The council unanimously agreed to its annual holiday incentive payments for city employees. Full-time employees will receive $150, while part-time employees - including reserves and firefighters - will receive $100.

In related action, at the request of Councilmember Tammi Holley, the council unanimously agreed to allow payments for employees' unused vacation hours to be included in the Dec. 9 paychecks, rather than the Dec. 23 paychecks, in order to give employees some extra money to spend before Christmas.

Retired Teachers Day

The council voted unanimously Monday to recognize Tuesday as Retired Teachers Day. This was done at the encouragement of the Alabama Education Retirees Association as part of American Education Week.

Called meeting Wednesday

The council will have a special called meeting Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at city hall to discuss the alcohol license for the new Murphy Oil convenience store being built in the Walmart parking lot. The issue was brought up at Monday's meeting, but the council could not verify whether the required two notices of Murphy Oil's alcohol license application had been published.

Also on the agenda for the called meeting will be further discussion of demolition of the building next to city hall on Main Street. The council was given three bids for the demolition contract Monday, but no motion was made to approve any of the bids.

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