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Mayor: City making progress

Mayor Earl Johnson said that by this time next year, the current city administration will be “closing in” on the major goals it set for the city.

Johnson made his “state of the city” comments at a meeting last night that marked the completion of this administration’s first year in office.

“I believe that the first year of this quadrennium (2008-2009) has been highly successful, and I look forward to the next with great excitement and anticipation,” the mayor said. “By this time next year, we will be closing in on the completion of the River Falls Street project and advancements on every other major goal we have set for our city.”

Johnson said this administration quickly set as its top priority the rehabilitation of River Falls Street, and with funding in place, is almost ready to let bids on the project. Other goals included establishing a cultural arts center in the old Church Street School and improving recreational facilities.

Johnson said securing grant funding for River Falls Street was a key in getting the projects moving. Once $1.5 million had been secured, the city began working with Merchant Capital to secure the necessary matching funds for this project, as well as funding for other projects. The result was a $6 million bond issue that will be repaid over a 25-year period.

As work began on this project, the city took advantage of an opportunity to purchase the 35 acres of the old Alatex Mill property.

“Coupled with the plans for River Falls Street, the acquisition of the Alatex site represents a major commitment of the city of Andalusia to revitalize a crumbling section of our city,” Johnson said. “Currently, we are working with an engineering firm to develop a highest, best-use conceptual plan for the Alatex site. We visualize a small, mixed-use, “boutique” industrial park that would be friendly to the neighborhood.”

He said he also hopes to “memorialize the generations of working men and women who toiled there” with some sort of tribute on the site.

But the council’s most important goal was to promote harmony and productivity among elected officials, department heads and employees, he said.

“We agreed that we must work together not only to move Andalusia forward, but also to ensure success and to set an example,” Johnson said. “We each know that we may disagree on any given topic. But we have resolved that we will not let any difference stop us from doing what is best for Andalusia.

“As we sit around the table discussing our plans, problems and dreams, I see the value in diversity and perspective. Each member of this council has a very important role in governing the city of Andalusia. I think each of you for your insight and applaud your willingness to serve.

“As we look forward, I would like to remind you that we must not rest,” Johnson said. “No matter how much pride we take in the accomplishments of the past year, we must never let up our relentless pursuit of greatness. We must never lose sight of the awesome responsibility that rests in our hands. As you know, a city will die without leadership, direction and guidance. It is our responsibility to provide the leadership that will be the spark that ignites the fire of greatness.”

Council members also shared thoughts about the first year of office.

The council also:

Approved a flood damage prevention ordinance.

Agreed to give $500 to the Andalusia High School Peer Helpers Club to help fund a game show-style program on drug and alcohol awareness.

Appointed Sue Bass Wilson to the Downtown Development Authority.

Announced openings on the Andalusia Public Library Board and the South Alabama Regional Airport Authority.