Mayor talks about health of Jacksonville

Mayor Johnny Smith talks with Exchange Club.

Exchange Club members listened Thursday as Mayor Johnny Smith summarized last year’s achievements and presented the 2018 budget. Prior to his speech, members learned that the magazine, Exchange Today, will feature an article about the success of the Jacksonville club, the largest in Alabama. Board members basked in the news afterward as they posed for photos for the publication. The entire group also gathered for a photo to submit for publication.

In his speech, shown with a PowerPoint presentation, Smith had figures for the 2018 budget of $13,802,832, which shows a $150,000 deficit. Citizens, however, should not be alarmed. Last year’s budget also operated at a deficit, but disciplined spending and wise decision-making allowed the city to close out the year with a balance. Smith predicted the same resolve will allow the 2018 budget to be handled with care.

Smith seemed proud of the accomplishments of 2017, in spite of the tight budget.

Achievements of 2017:

*The Public Safety Complex was completed. He encouraged members to tour it. The city’s wastewater treatment plant renovation began.

*Upgrades to the gas and water mains, which are ongoing projects, moved forward. Several intersections were improved to ease congestion near the high school and elementary school. Six dilapidated structures were removed, making a total of 114 removed or brought up to code since he has been mayor.

*Improvements were made to Henry Farm Park. In 2018, new playground equipment will be added at the Community Center and Germania Springs.

*Eight new residential homes were added.

*A video that markets Jacksonville to former residents is ready for viewing. Readers may go online at www.jacksonville-al.org to see it. Smith thanked the members of the Industrial Development Board and Jacksonville State University staff who worked on the project.

*Wise Guys Pizza and Cook-Out restaurant began operation.

*A facades project on storefronts improved the building where Wise Guys Pizza now operates.

“One other facade project is approved, and two others are pending,” Smith said, “thanks, in part, to Commercial Development Authority chairwoman, Kim McCutchen, who oversees the project for the Facades Grant for the Historic Square Overlay District.”

Looking ahead to 2018, Smith said the wastewater treatment plant renovations will continue to move forward. Inclement weather of late led to delays, but a spring or summer completion date is possible. A re-surfacing project for several streets is set. These include Mountain Street from Alabama Highway 21 east to Eighth Avenue Northeast, but Mountain Street ascending east from Eighth Avenue does not fall in the requirements set for how grant money from the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) can be used. A second paving project will be Church Avenue to begin at 11th Street Northeast, south to Alabama 21. Also, paving will take place along Alabama 21 through the city. The Alabama Department of Transportation will fund the entire project rather than the city’s getting assistance from MPO grant money.

“The City Council is concerned about the safety of students,“ Smith said. “Consequently, a network of sidewalks will be added so that students can walk or ride bikes more safely into the neighborhoods and to the Legacy Village, where some students will take part in programs that benefit both them and the elderly. The application for a $340,000 grant is underway to complete the project.“

A new restaurant is coming to the former Quiznos building, Jimmy John’s. It specializes in gourmet sandwiches.

Other topics for discussion in 2018 is that the city is looking to make improvements to the City Hall building, what to do with the old police building, the Eastwood school property, and the old Union Yarn Mill property.

Questions to the mayor involved asking who pays for the demolition of old structures. A new law allows the city to file a tax lien on the property. When the owners pay taxes, the city gets the money. Another member asked about speed bumps. Citizens usually complain about them, Smith said, but the latest designs in speed bumps make them more of an option.

Email Sherry at sherrykug@hotmail.com.