Angry parents protest Oakman mayor over new school

By Arielle Clay

OAKMAN, AL (WBRC) - Wednesday angry parents protested the mayor of Oakman over a dispute that has halted construction of the town's new elementary school.

The parents complained to FOX6 News about Oakman Mayor Joyce Todd, who they say stopped construction on the new Oakman Elementary School because the builders had not paid a $50,000 building permit fee to the town.

"As a parent I'm very upset.  Anything that's going to slow the progress of the school being built is taking away from the kids cause they're crammed into trailers and a partial building," Jennifer Kimbrell.  She has three children in the middle school.

Mayor Todd says it's all a misunderstanding.  She says she knew about the building fee but says she never proposed stopping construction to collect it.

"I don't know where all this is coming from," Joyce said. "I don't know who started it but I have not even thought about stopping construction up there never would think about it."

The elementary school is being rebuilt because the original building was destroyed by a tornado. Wednesday, work on the new school was still on-going.  

According to Oakman's police chief, the dispute arose from a visit he made to the construction site Monday to remind the workers about a $135 license they needed to purchase.  He says people mistook that visit for the city trying to stop construction.

"That's hearsay," Todd said. "He went up there but it was not to stop construction on the school."

The Walker County School System wasn't convinced.  Tuesday afternoon they convinced a judge to issue a restraining order against the city to keep city officials from stopping work or collecting the $50,000 fee.

According to the construction site superintendent, Oakman Police did come to remind them about $135 permit they forgot to get, but the superintendent said the city police also brought a reminder from the mayor that no building would progress unless the $50,000 permit was paid.

The mayor said town council members will vote Thursday on whether or not the fee should be collected.  One councilman says he's ready for this issue to end.

"Just build the school my son plays varsity ball and I'd love to play home games," Dennis Welch said.

According to Mayor Todd, a lawyer told her Wednesday the city cannot collect the $50,000 fee.  However, Mayor Todd said she is still calling the meeting to ease people's minds.

In the past the city waived the building fee when the high school was rebuilt.  

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.