Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 1, 2015
Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson is bullish on 2015.
Matter of fact, he says good things could start happening as soon as today.
“Even though it’s technically a national holiday, I am meeting with an investor who is coming here to look at a specific opportunity,” Johnson said. “Good things are going to keep happening.”
At least one – and possibly two – new restaurants will open in 2015. The city already entered into an agreement with Taco Bell for its plans to open here.
Come Tuesday, two more exciting things will happen. First, Andalusia 7th and 8th graders will resume classes in a brand, spanking new building, Andalusia Junior High School, located on the campus of AHS. That afternoon, the city’s new after-school program, APPLE, will open, thanks to a $600,000 grant. The initial response to the call for applications was so good that the program is full.
In the spring, construction on a major project to extend sidewalks in the city will begin, and by fall, the state should have bids and a contractor in place to renovate South Three Notch.
“We continue to have people interested in locating here,” Johnson said.
Standing on the Court Square Wednesday afternoon, he also dropped another hint.
“This has been one great promotion,” he said of Candyland, the joint effort between the city and the Chamber of Commerce. “But it’s going to be even better next year.”
Details aren’t finalized, but Candyland could have its own Polar Express.
In Opp, Mayor John Bartholomew said 2015 is expected to hold even more opportunities for the City of Opportunity.
Bartholomew said they are working on recruiting new retail and industry to the city.
“We can expect that in the coming months new businesses will be locating in Opp,” he said.
The rumor mill is full of prospects alleged to be considering locating in Opp, including a Walmart Express. However, Bartholomew said he had no knowledge of that venture.
A new industrial access road has been completed at the intersection of Hwy 331 and the bypass in hopes of attracting industry.
Additionally, Bartholomew said ground was broken earlier this week on a new Family Dollar store at the intersection of Main Street and Stewart Street.
Bartholomew said Alabama Aerospace Manufacturing’s relocation of its Georgia operation to Opp is going well. Bartholomew sold the controlling interest of the local company to Georgia Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing for $835,000 in June 2013.
“They are progressing along and adding machinery,” he said. “As far as I know they are doing well.”
The city has received grants to redo the drainage system and repave the road that leads to the facility.
“We continue to seek funding to improve our economy and community,” he said. “Work continues on improving our streets and infrastructure which, in turn, becomes our image to the rest of the world.”
As soon as midsummer, the Opp Utilities Board will have a new home in the former JM Jackson location on Hart Avenue.
It’s not the only place in Opp that will have a new home, according to Bartholomew.
The city is finishing up plans for the Depot and will await DOT approval.
“We hope to get that underway during the first quarter,” he said. “We’d like to have the Chamber over there.”
County Commission Chairman Bill Godwin said 2015 holds promise, but won’t be without its challenges.
The county should see completion of some big projects, he said, including an addition and improvements at the county jail.
“The jail looks like it’s going to be April before it’s completed because of the weather,” Godwin said. “We accepted a bid for the new security system, and they’ll start on that after the holidays. Of the approximately $1 million we will spend on this project, more than $100,000 is to update the security system in the old jail.”
The resurfacing of Still Pond Road will resume after the New Year’s holiday. The unplanned project – for which the county received $300,000 in state funding – will make roads much better for those in the Florala and Lockhart areas, but also mean some juggling of the county budget.
“We did not budget for that $150,000,” Godwin said. “We also will have to have the election for the renewal of the school tax, which will cost $40,000, which is the county’s expense. That was not in the budget.”
On a positive note, the county has seen a slight increase in sales taxes, and the decrease in fuel costs also will be good for the budget, he said. The county also has decreased its short-term debt.
Meanwhile, he said, the commission will soon need to make some decisions about storage space for county records.
“We are out of storage space at the courthouse,” he said. At present, records are stored in the courthouse basement, in the addition to the old county jail, and in the nearby brick building that was once a church.
“I think the best thing we could do is buy or rent an existing facility,” he said.
Not far behind that decision will be the need to upgrade the computer system for the central office.