FOLEY - For the past few years, Mayor John Koniar has attended the Foley Woman’s Club annual kick off meeting to deliver an update on the city and discuss all of the things happening in Foley. This …
FOLEY - For the past few years, Mayor John Koniar has attended the Foley Woman’s Club annual kick off meeting to deliver an update on the city and discuss all of the things happening in Foley. This year was no different, and on Mon., Sept. 9 Koniar took center-stage at the meeting held at Sweet Southern Scratch.
“Foley, it’s all good,” Koniar began. “It’s the third fastest growing city in Alabama, and that’s both good news and bad news. The good news is we’re growing. The bad news is we’re growing, and as a result it puts a lot of pressure to keep up. Foley was recently rated one of the top five safest places to live in Alabama by backgroundcheck.org, and the National Chamber rated us in the Top Ten Best Places to Live in Alabama, at number six. It’s a great community, great employees, and we’re doing something right.”
On Foley’s police force, Koniar said it’s the largest force of any municipality in both Baldwin and Mobile counties, except for the Sheriff’s Department. He states he’s extremely proud of both Foley’s police and fire departments, as well as its citizens and all that they do to help. He mentioned the council recently donated $4,000 to the Foley Animal Care and Control Program, a new TNR group getting started in the area, and what a help the group will be to the city.
The city now has over 300 employees, with a population growing at a 36% rate and the city workforce growing at a 17% rate.
“We’re keeping things under control, but as you can imagine there’s more and more of a challenge as we grow,” said Koniar. “We’re about 20,000 in population now, maybe 21,000 by the time the census rolls around next year. It’s a good problem to have, but it is a problem and we’re working on keeping it under control.”
He touched briefly on the 2019-2020 budget, the final which was approved during the first September council meeting. The anticipated revenue is over $48 million, with budgets sitting at: nearly $8 million for the police department; nearly $3 million for the fire department; $2,700,000 for the street department; $2,400,000 for sanitation; $1,300,000 for recreation; $1,300,000 for sports tourism; and $867,000 for the library.
In more detail, Koniar says he’s proud of the library, which has again been rated as a gold standard library, and was rated the number one library in the nation for its size a few years prior, as well as sports tourism and what it has brought to Foley.
“Sports tourism is helping the restaurants and the hotels; I’ve met people at those fields who are coming from Birmingham, from Niceville, from Pensacola, even from Louisiana,” Koniar said. “People from all over are coming to Foley with lots of compliments on the fields. People have been here before and are saying these are the best fields they ever participated on, so that’s good.”
In economic development, two of the largest locations to come to the area over the last year have been Publix and OWA’s Legends in Concerts, with the near opening of Paula Deen’s and Lucy’s slated for mid-November and future plans for a large upscale RV Park and water park at OWA. Buffalo Wild Wings has submitted building plans to the city, with a possible location in front of Foley Square.
A large discussion focused on future street extensions, the closest to completion being Fern Avenue which has been extended to the Foley Beach Express. Koniar hopes the opening will be in late October.
“This will help people from the south access the South Baldwin Regional Hospital quicker and allow for a faster response time from emergency vehicles, and it will be another alternative for us to go east or west,” Koniar said. He states on the hospital, an evaluation will take place in approximately four years that will determine whether to expand the current location or to relocate. The hospital already has three offers for potential locations if a relocation is decided as the best course of action.
During the next two years, $600,000 has been budgeted for improvements beginning at County Road 12 and the Foley Beach Express and moving back towards Highway 98, with the intersection of 12 and the Beach Express being the starting point. With many new developments in that area, Koniar says it’s important to work on road safety.
Next year will mark Koniar’s 40th year of elected service, which he doesn’t regret.
“I wouldn’t have stayed this long if it hadn’t been so enjoyable,” he said. “There’s been really great employees, great mayors, and great councils to work with over the years, and as I tell people we aren’t perfect, but in general it’s a great thing to be part of.”
For more information on what’s going on in Foley, check out their website at https://cityoffoley.org.