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What lies ahead for the next year

The year 2009 will present Chilton County and its municipalities with great challenges, but there are also many opportunities for improvement.

The top officials with the Chilton County Commission, City of Clanton, City of Jemison, Town of Thorsby and the Town of Maplesville took time to talk with the Clanton Advertiser staff about what residents can expect in the coming year.

Chilton County Commission

County Commission Chairman Tim Mims sees challenges ahead in 2009 for Chilton County but believes they can be met if the commission and residents work together.

“The county is certain to face challenges as well as opportunities in 2009,” Mims said this week, “and it is the responsibility of all of us to work together to meet the challenges and take advantages of the opportunities.”

Considering the downturn in the nation’s economy, Mims said the commission will have to remain within the spending limits of its $14 million budget. “The commission will have to work hard with all departments and agencies that are funded in the budget to make sure budget overages do not occur,” he said.

“It is [the commission’s] responsibility to make sure that we efficiently use the funds we have. That is true of every year, but it is especially important to do so during the tough times to come,” Mims said.

The chairman said the repair of roads and bridges will be a major challenge in 2009, especially the county’s aging bridges.

“Our engineer, Tony Wearren, reported recently that the state is in the process of downgrading weight limits of many bridges in the county. Many of our bridges now do not have weight limits that allow school buses and emergency vehicles to cross,” he said.

Mims said the commission had to work together to stretch the road department’s $4,567,000 budget to cover the needs of the bridges as well as the improved and unimproved roads in the county system.

“And we need to do so fairly in all the areas in the county,” he added.

There is a good possibility that departments will be asked to go into “emergency spending mode” early in 2008.

“Under emergency spending,” Mims said “those who receive funding for their department in the budget will be asked to conserve as much as possible, hopefully spending less than what has been allocated to them.”

— Mike Kelley

City of Jemison

Mayor Eddie Reed said all citizens, not just city officials, will help determine Jemison’s direction in 2009.

Everything from supporting local businesses to picking up litter are examples of ways citizens can help make Jemison a better place to live.

“We are going to continue to spend conservatively, making sure city services will still be provided and that our fire and police departments will still be of high quality,” Reed said, adding, “Everything we do will be a ‘have-to.’”

Business development is a high priority for 2009, as the city seeks to build its local tax base.

The mayor said he would like to have more restaurants in the area, for example.

“We don’t have what Alabaster has, but we can continue to work toward that,” Reed said.

A sidewalk project is on tap for the main business district, where several businesses have been remodeled. Alongside these efforts, Reed again stressed the importance of litter control.

On a final note, the mayor asks people to join him in praying for peace.

“America has always come up with answers before, and we’ve never allowed a problem we’ve confronted to be our downfall,” Reed said.

— Scott Mims

Town of Thorsby

Mayor Dearl Hilyer believes Thorsby’s greatest accomplishments will occur when the community comes together.

“My prayer for this year is that our community will come together as we deliver projects, such as the town beautification project, Richard Wood Park summer event schedule and our departments with volunteers perform external training for our community,” he said.

“I will honor my commitment to moving the town forward by completing plans that lay the groundwork for enhanced economic opportunities and quality developments for Thorsby that will truly create a ‘live, work and play’ community for existing and future residents.

— Brent Maze

Town of Maplesville

Mayor Kurt Wallace is optimistic about 2009 for his town.

“I’m looking forward to a great year,” he said.

The town is facing difficulties, especially on the economic front. Wallace said the town is down about $30,000 from the previous year in sales tax revenues due to the economic downturn.

Wallace is sending a letter to all of residents encouraging them to shop locally.

“It’s cheaper for them to shop here because our sales tax is only 8 percent while other areas are more,” Wallace said.

“It’s better for them because they don’t have to travel as far, and they save money. Residents can also help the town by shopping here to increase sales tax revenues.”

Another way to help boost sales tax revenues could be to host events, such as the Wing Fest and a possible May Day celebration.

Wallace said this could help draw more people to the town throughout the year.

Wallace said he also hopes to land a tier two supplier for an automotive manufacturer.

“At one end of (Highway) 82, we have Mercedes, and Hyundai is at the other end,” Wallace said.

“If we could get a tier two supplier, then we could have as many as 500 or 600 jobs.

That should allow our stores to succeed and bring more revenue to the town.”

— Brent Maze

City of Clanton

Rising costs of materials for city departments will be a major challenge for the City of Clanton in 2009, according to Mayor Billy Joe Driver.

“Just about every material we use cost more now than it did a year ago,” Mayor Driver said this week. “We are working hard to keep our utility rates where they are in spite of the increased costs related to providing the services,” he added.

Recently other communities have increased utility rates to off-set increased operational costs.

Driver said the cost of asphalt has increased from $53 to $90 a ton while the taxes coming to the city from gasoline has decreased due to better conservation measures being used now by motorists. “We have to meet the challenge of keeping our streets and roadways in good condition with less taxes coming in,” he said.

The mayor said the city plans to continue its effort to increase the capacity of the city’s water treatment plant in 2009 and it will need matching funds for grants scheduled for the project.

He said he hopes the city will able to begin work on a third fire station to provide more fire protection. The city owns land near the Lay Dam Exit on I-65 where it proposes to build a new station in an area of growth.

Bids have been opened and approved for the city’s planned civic center. The center will be built in conjunction with Jefferson State Community College on its campus located on Lay Dam Road here. Mayor Driver said he believes the center will create opportunities for the city as well as the community college.

– Mike Kelley