Florala discusses stimulus

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Small towns probably will not be getting funds to cover all the items on their “wish lists” through President Obama’s stimulus package, according to Scott Farmer, a representative with the Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Council. Farmer spoke to the Florala City Council briefly Monday about how his agency is instructing municipalities in regards to stimulus monies.

“Right now, there’s just no way to know which way the bill is going to go,” Farmer said. “From what I understand, the House version has about a billion (dollars) set aside for things like Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) projects. The Senate has none.

“If the House version passes, that means about $6 million per state in funds for things like sewer, water and street projects. Once that’s parceled out, that doesn’t leave much per project.

“We’re telling people to think of that wish list as just that — a ‘wish list,’” he said. “Make sure projects are put in order of priority. That money could take care of one or two things on the list, maybe. That’s why things need to be in order, ready to roll, if the money is given.”

Farmer also spoke about on the possibility of grant funds to connect the Florala State Park walkway from the Alabama side to the Florida side. He said the project appeared to be a good candidate for the recreational trail grant program and that he would check on how best to apply for those funds.

Council members also held a brief discussion on the fee for operating a fireworks business in the city. Currently, the city charges $690 per year. Sandy McCranie of Betty’s Best Bang Fireworks had requested the council examine the “too high” fee, saying the fee was unfair and unwarranted.

Mayor Robert Williamson said he had obtained a license fees list from surrounding cities and towns and agreed the fee was much higher than others. Red Level charged the next highest fee — a $100 minimum fee or 2 percent of gross sales, whichever was higher.

A motion to waive a recently passed 15 percent increase died for a lack of a second, and the council agreed that changing the fee would set a “dangerous precedent.”

In other business, the council:

approved a request from the Florala Utilities Board to amend its articles of incorporation to include its gas system.

heard from the Covington County chapter for Habitat for Humanity, who was requesting support in the form of land donations.