FAIRHOPE – Efforts to better manage city funds should soon give Fairhope another $4 million to $6 million a year for community projects, Mayor Karin Wilson said Thursday, Feb. 6.
In the annual “State of the City” address at the Fairhope Civic Center, Wilson said that in the last three years the city has gone from requiring half the profits of the Utilities Department to operate to being self-sustaining.
“What do we have to look forward to? A lot” Wilson said. “Now that utilities can finally afford its long-overdue upgrades and work has begun, in a few short years, the city of Fairhope will have an extra $4 million to $6 million a year to spend in community development. It’s an amazing opportunity that most cities will never attain -- $4 million to $6 million a year to enhance our quality of life. We need to start talking now about the possibilities, but we must stay the course.”
Wilson said that since taking office after the 2016 elections, she has worked with city departments to restore Fairhope’s finances as well as improving communication and citizen engagement.
“Each department has become good stewards of your tax dollars,” Wilson said.
Wilson said that in recent years, many issues that had been discussed in the past have been addressed.
“We’ve invested millions in facility maintenance, critical utility upgrades and improving the health of Mobile Bay all without borrowing a dime,” Wilson said. “The four BP Restore projects I proposed in 2017 were awarded in the amount of $18 million for sewer rehabilitation, a study to reduce sanitary sewer overflows in Mobile Bay on the Eastern Shore, a comprehensive land use plan to better manage growth and protect our quality of life and, lastly, a working waterfront project located at the municipal pier.”
Wilson praised the work by Public Works Director Richard Johnson and Economic and Community Development Director Jessica Walker in making the working waterfront project the first such effort to begin in the state.
She said the $6.2-million greenspace project will include bluff stabilization featuring a sunset seating gallery and park improvements.
The mayor said improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists is another goal for residents
She said city officials have also worked to improve communications with residents.
“Obtaining opinions from all walks of life and listening to different viewpoints is the only way to run a successful city,” Wilson said. “I value the thoughts and concerns of others and believe they push us to make better decisions for the community as the whole.”
The city is also making Fairhope a better place for pedestrians and bicyclists, Wilson said. Fairhope was the first city in the state to adopt complete street initiative in 2009. Now, Wilson said she wants future generations of children to grow up enjoying bicycle rides around the city as she and her sister did growing up in Fairhope.
“We have continued working hard to preserve that spirit of exploration and walkability as well as enhancing safety for bikers and pedestrians alike,” Wilson said. “The new crosswalks on Section Street, new sidewalks in various locations throughout the city and numerous other projects are helping us make sure future generations have the same opportunity my sister and I had when we grew up here.”
The State of the City event at the Fairhope Civic Center included exhibits by municipal departments to allow residents to talk to department heads and employees about planning, community development, finances, police and fire protection and other services.
The mayor said improving communication with residents has been another city goal in recent years.
“Obtaining opinions from all walks of life and listening to different viewpoints is the only way to run a successful city,” she said. “I value the thoughts and concerns of others and believe they push us to make better decisions for the community as the whole.”