By Morgan Bryce

With only a two-item agenda, the focus of discussion at last Tuesday’s Smiths Station City Council meeting centered on restoration efforts taking place citywide following major damage sustained from an EF-4 tornado on March 3.
Destroying 24 homes and injuring two people, the tornado’s impact left Mayor Bubba Copeland in a “state of shock and disbelief” as he left his home minutes after the storm passed and witnessed the devastation left behind.
Relying on the help of his city administration, invaluable leadership from emergency response organizations like the Alabama Forestry Commission and more than 5,000 volunteers helping clean the wreckage, he said he believes the city is on the right footing moving forward.
“We’ve had people from every religion, we’ve had people from all walks of life – tall, short, old, young – come and help us here in Lee County and Smiths Station. From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank every single person who has given of themselves or their time to come and help,” Copeland said.
At the start of their regular meeting, the council heard from AFC representatives Joel Bartlett and James Williams, who had been on the ground working coordinating recovery and repair efforts since the previous Monday.
As the organization’s public information officer, Bartlett helped Copeland land interviews on major national networks including Fox and Fox Business News to share what had happened to his city and gain national exposure.
“This is my 19th year with the commission, and I’ve been tasked to areas that have been affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters, and I can honestly say I’ve never worked worked with a group of people like ya’ll have here in my entire life. I have never come into a place and been treated like this,” Bartlett said.
Williams, the commission’s lead command, shared an emotional account of his time in the city, thanking Copeland, city administration and council members, residents and volunteers.
“My hat goes off to the people of Smiths Station. As (Bartlett) said, we feel like ya’ll are our family,” Williams said. “And when we leave here, you will still and always will be our family.”
Each council member, along with city clerk Scott Johnston, expressed gratitude in-turn to Bartlett, Williams and their team for their contributions.
“Sadly, the people of this community will not fully understand what you and your organization have done,” said Place 4 member Richard Cooley. “I’ve been on this council for a good chunk of my life, and these people are family. We appreciate you coming here and joining our family, which you will forever be a part of.”
“You don’t know what you’ve meant to us … we can’t put it into words, we can’t try to. It’s times like this your true colors come out, and your staff and team that set up in that trailer behind City Hall should be commended forever for what you’ve done for this city,” Johnston said.
The council also approved an annexation petition and pre-zoning request of property owned by residents Jerald and Pamela Dean.
The Smiths Station City Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month with a work session beginning at 5:30 p.m. E.S.T. and regular meeting at 6 p.m. Their meetings are held in the council chambers of the Smiths Station Government Center, which is located at 2336 Lee Road 430.
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