The council met Tuesday evening and voted to name the park James Eaton Park to honor Eaton’s many years of service to the town. Eaton was first elected in 1986 and has served during all but two of the last 24 years. Council members voted for this after Butch Scalf read a letter recommending the park be named after Eaton.
Scalf, who is the town’s emergency management director, said he was speaking as a citizen.
“I remember when we didn’t even have a stop sign in town or a street name on any block,” Scalf said. “We didn’t have a police department and only one old World War II army surplus Jeep with a water tank on the back to fight any fires in the district.”
Scalf spoke of the recent improvements in the community, including new homes and businesses.
“There have been many people who have had a part in the success of our town, and none more than Mayor James Eaton,” Scalf said. “Serving on the city council ... he championed the cause for a police department that would earn the respect from law enforcement across the whole state, and at the same time, doing what he could to see that our fire department had everything they needed to be one of the best in the county.”
According to Scalf, Eaton did these things because he loves the city and wants to see it grow.
“No one ever achieves what he has without controversy and he has had his share, but I submit to you that he has stepped up time and time again and put his money where his mouth was,” Scalf said. “Only he knows how many tires he put on city vehicles free of charge because at the time, it was the right thing to do ... When the senior center across the street lost federal funding in October last year, it was Mayor Eaton that said, ‘We are not closing.’”
Scalf spoke about other people honored by the council in the past, Jack Stockton, Donell Deel and Haynie Burkhalter.
“But the one thing they have in common is they’re all dead,” Scalf said. “My only question to the council is, ‘Why do good, honorable people have to die before they are recognized as such?’”
Vice Mayor David Westbrook said he echoed Scalf’s statements, and while he has not always agreed with Eaton, they would come to a meeting of the minds.
Council members then approved naming the park in honor of Eaton after Westbrook made a motion.
Eaton was surprised and was not aware of this until he saw the council agenda.
“I appreciate it,” Eaton said. “I do this because I love this town and I love what I do.”
Council members David Jackson and Michael Hearon were not present for Tuesday’s meeting. Hearon was on National Guard duty and Jackson was absent for an undisclosed reason.
In other action, council members are taking action to establish a planning and zoning committee for the town.
Several citizens were present for the meeting and requested zoning regulations. Council Member Vicki Barkley said this has been talked about in the past and is something the citizens want.
According to the council, the town’s attorney had previously advised against this because someone would be needed to enforce the zoning laws. Officials and citizens at the meeting agreed that it is necessary now because of how quickly Calera is growing.
“Now, Calera is getting to that stage where we’re going to have to,” Eaton said.
A citizen said the town has got to modernize and zone itself.
“It’s very frustrating that people spend a lot of money to move into this town and something happens that just destroys everything,” a citizen said.
Barkley encouraged citizens to stay involved and volunteer to serve on a planning and zoning committee.
“Don’t come here tonight and walk away and forget about it,” Barkley said. “This has to be a group effort.”
Council members and citizens also talked about litter problems and yards that are riddled with broken-down vehicles or other items.
“We need to stop that,” Westbrook said. “We need a cultural change.”
A citizen asked about a truck-repair shop that is planned for East Main Street that he felt would create traffic problems. Council members said that because the town does not presently have building requirements, nothing can be done about business plans that are already in the works.
“If we had building permits, we would have control of it,” Westbrook said.
Council members voted to move ahead with establishing the planning and zoning committee and they will be contacting the town’s attorney David Kelly.
It is expected to be discussed again at the council’s next meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 13.