Gulf Shores approves lodging tax increase

By: Crystal Cole/ Islander Editor
Posted 10/2/17

Gulf Shores' City Council unanimously approved a 2 percent increase in its lodging tax at a recent city council work session.

City administrator Steve Griffin said the last five years the city …

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Gulf Shores approves lodging tax increase

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Gulf Shores' City Council unanimously approved a 2 percent increase in its lodging tax at a recent city council work session.

City administrator Steve Griffin said the last five years the city has averaged about $1 million in matching grants and/or general fund money for various transportation projects.

“Looking ahead 10 years, transportation represents nearly 50 percent of our 10-year capital improvement plan,” Griffin said. “It’s also four times that $1 million average, so roughly $4.2 million annually for the next 10 years. A 2 percent lodging tax would only pay a portion of that, but it is what we need in order to balance this budget and deal with some of the other issues like parks, police and fire.”

Griffin said the Gulf Shores Sportsplex has been a surprising success story, but has caused headaches traffic-wise. Plans are to very soon widen County Road 6 from Hwy 59 to the Sportsplex and to also extend the turn lanes to get to Co. Rd. 6.

He also spoke about the city annexing property on County Road 8 for the Auburn project and taking on maintenance of that road. The city hopes to make it a main thoroughfare on and off the Foley Beach Express. He said it was important to Mayor Robert Craft to earmark this money specifically for infrastructure improvements.

“Similarly, back in 1999 when the lodging tax was increased, you earmarked that for beach renourishment,” Griffin said. “So, the dune system and Leave Only Footprints is out of that fund. The mayor feels strongly that if he’s going to suggest this extra 2 percent that it be earmarked.”

City councilman Philip Harris said with how aggressive the capital improvement plan is, that a previously proposed gas tax would not be enough.

“Most of these projects are needed now,” Harris said. “We have a good relationship with ALDOT, so we’ll be able to take advantage for more opportunities for matching funds this way. It is important to have that money go a lot further in accomplishing those projects.”

Also approved at the work session:

-Applying for a grant to help the police department pay for an x-ray generator for the GSPD bomb technician. The grant would cover $24,000 of the $41,520 piece of equipment. The police department hopes having this equipment will alleviate the reliance on cooperating agencies during larger events.

-Awarding the bid for Hwy 182 signal upgrades to Babgy & Russell in an amount not to exceed $1,550,000. An existing ALDOT signal funding agreement will cover $800,000 of the construction costs netting the City $750,000 in matching costs.

-Awarding the Windmill Ridge Road Bridge Deck Replacement Contract to Pope Contracting, Inc. in an amount not to exceed $65,000. Per the recommendation of the city’s bridge inspector, the deck on the Windmill Ridge Road Bridge must be replaced. The new bridge deck will be similar to the existing, and the appearance of the bridge will not be changed. Windmill Ridge Road will be closed (except to local traffic) for a few weeks while the work is performed, presumably in November 2017.

-Public assembly permits for the Spring Hill College fall volleyball tournament and Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Weekend.