I try to attend most Talladega City Council meetings and was present Thursday, Feb. 23. If one just dropped in the meeting and did not know it was an election year, they could easily realize it was, with all the posturing, grandstanding and pontificating taking place. There were, however, some vital issues that were discussed.
The head of the Street Department presented a detailed comprehensive report on street paving needs in the city. Included in her report was information that, despite extensive plans for addressing potholes, some street would have to be eliminated due to "lack of funds." She stated she would like "to pave everything" if she only had the funds. This report came after many complaints and discussions (even during this meeting by councilmen) about the terrible condition of streets. At least one complaint asking for damages was presented at a previous meeting from a motorist whose car was damaged after striking a pothole.
Immediately following the street issue discussion, the council began a protracted discussion on a planned splash pad. It was obvious that more than one councilman was jockeying to have the project located in their ward. (Great politics in a reelection year.) City Manager Cheeks' PowerPoint presentation was informative. After some acrimony, the council voted 4 to 1 to move forward with the splash pad, locating it at the city golf course.
There are significant sobering facts included in the city manager's presentation. The estimate construction cost is at $1.4 million! More significant: The estimated maintenance cost is around $60,000 per year! The question is obvious: Where is the money coming from? Can Talladega really afford such an outlay? Can they even afford the additional maintenance cost?
I have discussed this splash pad idea with many folks across the city, and with the exception of just a handful from City Hall, I have not met one who thinks we can afford it and that it is a great idea. The question always surfaces: Why is the council not adequately addressing critical street issues yet, actively pursuing this splash pad, costing well over $1 million?
I urge each of you to be mindful that we elect a new City Council in August of this year. One would think that those seeking reelection would be trying earnestly to exhibit leadership ability and skill instead of pandering for votes with a splash pad we cannot afford!
James W. Anderson