City officials reflect on old year, look toward new
As 2023 gets into full swing, local municipalities are reflecting on the year past and the year to come.
“One of the things I’m proudest of from 2022 is the ability of the city council to pass the budget where all city employees were given a four-step raise,” explained Russellville Mayor David Grissom. “One step is 3.14 percent, so 12.56 percent total.” He said the city will also pay up to $400 a month on family coverage health insurance.
That achievement ranked high for Councilman Darren Woodruff too.
“I am most proud of the city being able to provide a nice raise and some help on the family health insurance to the city employees,” Woodruff said.
“I am most happy for the flooding issues we have been able to address in district 2,” Woodruff added. “I am looking forward to 2023 and completing some more flooding projects and hopefully paving some streets in district 2.”
Grissom and Councilman Jamie Harris shared their pride in the completion of the city splash pad at Sloss Lake, as well as the $300,000 grant that will help with demolishing a number of dilapidated and vacant structures around the city – including the old College Avenue Elementary School – in addition to a number of other projects.
“We approved a lot of purchases in the past year,” explained Grissom, “including eight police cars, and we purchased a pickup truck in the building license department and one for the fire department chief, as well as one for the street department.
“We bought all kinds of paving equipment,” added Grissom, “and we are hoping to start paving our own city streets instead of having that contracted out as we have done in the past.” He said this should enable the city to pave more streets more efficiently and in a more cost-effective manner.
“Paving more miles of street for less money will be important for the city,” he said.
“We also made purchases for getting into the commercial solid waste business, which we hope to start in October 2023,” he added. Grissom said the city started residential solid waste a couple of years ago, and the new initiative will be commercial dumpsters, like for businesses. “Our goal is to be able to take care of our businesses’ solid waste needs at the same price or for less than what they are paying now.”
Grissom said additional purchases included two fire trucks and four dump trucks.
He noted a big culvert on Joann and McGee was replaced, and the city fire department was able to hire a deputy fire chief.
Harris and Grissom also shared their enthusiasm for Russellville qualifying to serve as a pilot city for the new “Aspiring” Main Street tier, a one-year track intended to prepare communities for designation while building capacity, establishing organizational structure and putting volunteers to work on short-term projects. The goal is to revitalize downtowns and help expand growth and community enjoyment and engagement.
“I think the thing about the future is the hope for more jobs,” said Harris. The city’s recent agreement concerning a potential medical cannabis facility by Natural Relief Cultivation LLC, on property located on Highway 24 E., could be a source for some of those jobs. “We’ve done everything we can do to be ready for that,” added Grissom. “We won’t know for sure what will or won’t happen until June of this year.”
Grissom said the city looks forward to continuing to see improvements “on the economic development front,” through working with existing businesses and manufacturing companies as well as welcoming new ones, including Harbor Freight, scheduled to open early in 2023, and T-Mobile, which is already open.
In addition, the city recently authorized the purchase of new portable radios, moving from an analog system to a digital one, to be used by the police, fire and street departments. Other upgrades included repairs and updates at the Russellville Municipal Airport, which held a grand re-opening in late 2022.
Harris said the dumpsters the city placed around town to help with Christmas waste were a “huge hit for the holidays.” Grissom said it was the first time that had been done and many people praised the effort. The street department noted it helped keep garbage off the streets.
Red Bay Mayor Charlene Fancher, reported she’s “very pleased” with the progress the city made in 2022.
“It was realized in 2022 that careful financial forecasting and adhering to the yearly financial forecasts for the past six years has paid off for the City of Red Bay,” explained Fancher. “Thanks to our employees, citizens, businesses and industries, we are in sound financial condition, and I am very proud of this accomplishment that the council and I worked hard for several years to achieve.
“In 2022 we made many accomplishments and improvements in the daily services we provide to our citizens,” she added, like improvements made to the sewer infrastructure system in the system, which she said has been “an ongoing challenge.”
Fancher said as horrific as COVID-19 was for everyone, a silver lining was the American Rescue Plan Act funds, administered through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. The City of Red Bay received $1,130,000, and with an additional $450,000 of ARC grant funds, the city’s Sewage Disposal Board was able to complete the second phase of installing 2,800 linear feet of 18-inch sewer trunk line from Hospital Road to 10th Avenue.
“These funds will also add a sewer lift station along Alabama Highway 19, abandon and replace approximately 1,000 linear feet of 8-inch sewer line around Highway 19, install telemetry monitoring at key lift stations, perform video inspection and rehabilitate the sewer line from Brookwood Subdivision to Lift Station 1,” she added.
Fancher described the rehabilitation of the sewer system infrastructure as a “major accomplishment,” noting Red Bay has been “persistent with grant opportunities to pursue this accomplishment that will support our citizens, businesses and industries for many, many years.”
She said maintaining and improving sewer infrastructure is a “constant, serious issue,” adding she’s thankful for “the team effort in continuously pursuing grant opportunities to stay ahead of the game with this ongoing challenge.”
Fancher said she and the council are also “very proud to accomplish the paving of various streets throughout the city,” describing the paving initiative as “long overdue.”
“We are very proud to fund a portion of the paving projects with fuel tax revenue funds that are finally accruing decent fund balances to work with to fund needed paving projects,” she said.
Fancher listed a number of project goals for 2023, including:
- Completion of paving projects
- Clearing/cutting rights of way
- Beautification projects: address littered properties, make improvements to the Keeton Walking Trail and initiate the garbage collection transition to new garbage truck/new can system.
- Completion of grant projects: Sewer Trunkline and Industrial Park; replacement of traffic lights and controllers; replacement of all city street signs with new signs.
“I am very proud of the accomplishments we have made in Phil Campbell,” said Mayor Michael McQuary. “We had a few roads paved and some culverts replaced, and I think our Hoedown festival was the biggest it’s been.”
McQuary said the city purchased new equipment for the street and police departments in 2022, as well as Christmas lights for the park and a flagpole Christmas tree. The city also held a town clean-up day, when volunteers came out to help spruce things up prior to the Phil Campbell Hoedown festival.
“Our police coverage has increased a lot with the addition of full and part-time officers,” he added.
His proudest achievement, he said, was the city audit. “It shows Phil Campbell is in better shape financially than it has been in a long time, according to our CPA.”
As for the new year, McQuary said the town wants to keep moving forward with finding new businesses and working to improve the town for those who live there.
Vina Mayor Michael Moomaw, reported 2022 accomplishments included the opening of Vina RV Service Center in the industrial park. Other big accomplishments for 2022 included:
- Confirmation that Vina will be getting a Dollar General store.
- Purchase of the industrial park building for a future business.
- FreedomFiber Internet coming to the area in the near future.
Moomaw said focuses and goals for 2023 in Vina include:
- Seeing the completion and opening of the Dollar General.
- Obtaining a convenience store with fuel.
- Working toward business growth in the town.
- Focusing on filling the need for more housing development.
Additionally, Moomaw said the utility board is working on the installation of a pump station, which will help increase pressure in the system, mainly focusing on low-pressure areas.
“I feel like our biggest accomplishment for the past year was getting just under a million dollars in grants – $910,000,” shared Hodges Mayor Brian Scott. “We’re still working on a lot of the details on some of them, including working on the environmental side right now.”
Scott said among the improvements that will be made with the grant money are the paving of Church Street and Depot Road, as well as replacing the wellhouse and a generator in the generator room at the spring.
“It’s harder to get the power turned back onto it there because it takes three-phase power,” added Scott, “and it’s also much harder for the power company to provide services. So, if we have a generator, that will make things a lot easier. I’m looking forward to seeing this accomplished sometime this year.”
Oct. 12, 2022, Hodges debuted a mural, painted on panels by artist Missy Miles and installed on the side of the Mills-Shavings office building on the corner of Highway 187 and Main Street. Scott said the town was able to get a $2,000 grant through assistance from the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association to pay for it.
“I’m excited about receiving our first mural and how it represents the town,” Scott explained. “Public feedback about the mural has been really, really good. We’re going to get another mural, and we’re also going to do removal of some old buildings.”
He said another area of pride is the Christmas lights at the park, noting many have shared compliments on the display. This year Scott said the town is looking to make more upgrades to the town park, including adding more playground equipment, and will be seeking grants to help with that.
“We want to start having movie nights in the park,” added Scott. “We’re looking forward to getting that started. We already have the projector and screen, and we need to test the sound system. The screen is 250 inches, so that’s a pretty good size.”