FLORENCE — Christmas wish lists are common this time of year, and the Florence City Council is not immune to the spirit of the giving season.
The council and Mayor Mickey Haddock met for two hours this week to begin compiling a capital projects list for the coming year. There were plenty of common wishes, such as building a bridge linking west Florence with Alabama 20, expanding the city’s sports complex and starting a new round of streetscaping. Drainage issues also emerged as a common theme.
Council President Dick Jordan said the projects will be weighed against financial realities. The council’s options for financing the projects could include borrowing money in the bond market, paying for work from cash reserves or doing nothing at all. The latter option would seem to be the least likely of the three.
“The 1-cent sales tax adopted by the council in 1995 is what funds capital projects,” Jordan said.
The tax generates approximately $8 million annually, he said, and 37 percent of that amount is earmarked for the city school system. Other portions of the tax collection are dedicated to repaying capital debt, and Jordan said a significant part of that will be repaid this spring.
For the past four years, the mayor and council did not have a capital projects budget because of the national recession. Florence weathered the economic downturn better than most cities, which was accomplished in part by curtailing spending.
But sales tax collections in Florence — the bread and butter of municipal government in Alabama — have improved significantly in the past two years.
Each council member read a list of projects they would like to see launched in the next four years, and only a few were district specific.
Haddock had a list, too. He wants to close the block of College Street between Court and Pine streets, which is between the Lauderdale County Courthouse, the Florence-Lauderdale government building and City Hall. He said that would create a government plaza and open more areas for handicapped parking and access. His list also included expanding camping in McFarland Park, building a new animal shelter and using communications technology to keep the public informed. He also wants to have more frequent meetings with elected officials from other cities and counties.
“I know we have districts, but I want us to think of one Florence as often as possible,” Haddock said. “What’s good for one district will be good for all the districts.”
Among the projects that were added to the initial list were building a government archive, building a new Indian Mound museum, streetscaping along Veterans Drive and Tennessee Street, creating an entertainment district, putting a cooling system in the Burrell Slater gym, opening a homeless shelter, building an amphitheater in Veterans Park, completing the River Heritage trail and building a seniors center in Deibert Park.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.