181231 Four Mayors

Mayors of the four cities. David Bradford (Muscle Shoals), Steve Holt (Florence), Kerry Underwood (Tuscumbia) and Ian Sanford (Sheffield)

Along with a new year – and decade – Shoals residents will notice a variety of new developments in 2020.

Projects of note in the four Shoals cities include:

-- In Florence, the River Heritage Trail and additional streetscape are in the works.

-- Tuscumbia has negotiations with restaurants in the works, on the heels of a year that saw Superhero Chef and numerous other projects in the city.

-- Muscle Shoals made improvements to its storm drainage system and additional work is coming this year.

-- In Sheffield, which has witnessed a revitalized downtown, officials anticipate work starting on Inspiration Landing.

Florence utilizing extra tax revenue

Florence has used a 1-cent sales tax increase that began in March for various programs, as well as pay raises. The new rate is 9.5% in Florence, with 3.5% going to the city.

The City Council approved the increase and expected some $1.4 million of it to go toward pay raises for police and firefighters to help bring salaries in line with those at regional cities of similar size. They later increased pay for upper-level members of the departments, as well.

Improvements to Veterans Park including refurbished tennis courts, playground equipment and clearing work that helped enhance the view to the Tennessee River were among projects. Additional upgrades have been made to city parks, including tennis courts.

The sale tax increase generated just under $5 million from March through the end of the fiscal year in September, and the city used it all, Holt said.

"We were able to cover everything we were set to cover with the increase," he said.

"My priority has been to take all of our buildings and facilities in all of our departments and have them maintained and updated so that we're in good shape physically. We got a really good start on it, with the museums and parks. We thought those were the most pressing."

Work has started on Station 1 at Florence Fire Rescue, as well as the first floor of the Police Department.

The Station 1 work, including the roof, is expected to cost about $550,000. The police station likely will cost about $275,000.

The River Heritage Trail along the Tennessee River and an additional streetscape phase are among projects on board for 2020, Holt said. The $2,885,824 contract for the project with Joe Keenum Excavation and Construction Inc. calls for 300 working days

"We should start the streetscape in January," Holt said. "That would finish up the next two blocks of Tennessee Street, then to Cherry Street, down to College Street and from College over to Poplar Street and back up. That's a rather extensive project.

"The other big one is the river walk. It's ready to go out to bid."

Officials have estimated the cost of the River Heritage project at $4.1 million.

Florence will continue a paving program that involved $1.5 million worth of work in 2019, Holt said. He said the city ranks its paving needs on streets on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest need.

"We got all of our 10s," he said. "We'll start on the 9s this year."

He said they will dedicate $2 million toward the 2020 paving program.

A project of more than $1.5 million will go toward improvements to the sewer structure and manholes along Alabama Street.

Florence also is working with the Alabama Department of Transportation on Rickwood Road improvements, from Helton Drive to Chisholm Road.

"It's scheduled to be bid in September," Holt said. "That is definitely needed. It's a rough stretch. It's taking us longer than usual because of being able obtain right of way. We've just got to get all of that worked out and it takes some time."

The mayor said maintenance and upgrades to city properties will continue.

"By end of the fiscal year we hope to start looking at the next fire station to renovate, and the upper level of the Police Department," he said. "We'll continue renovations and maintenance on our parks."

Holt said he wants the city also to explore ways to increase bandwidth and high-speed fiber lines.

"We want to make sure we are competitive with everybody else in the years to come," he said.

   

Breaking ground on Inspiration Landing

While Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford said he is not seeking reelection in 2020, he does want to see one major project started during his administration come to fruition next year.

It's been four years since Germantown, Tennessee, developer John Elkington revealed his plans for the music themed Inspiration Landing project to a packed city hall auditorium.

At long last, it appears groundbreaking should be happening sometime after the new year.

"I think we're going to see a considerable amount of work," Sanford said. "I'm just thankful John Elkington didn't walk away from the project."

For the coming year, the mayor said downtown buildings continue to be renovated, including a bed and breakfast on Montgomery Avenue. Two buildings, including the Fox A-1 Plumbing Inc. building on Montgomery Avenue, have been sold.

He tells those who comment about how well downtown look that they need to support those businesses.

"We look forward to a good year," Sanford said. "I really think 2020 will be a good year for Sheffield and a good year for the Shoals."

   

UNA to have Tuscumbia presence

In Tuscumbia, Mayor Kerry Underwood discussed the city's past three years under the new mayor and council during his state of the city address.

The $2.7 million paving project was one of the biggest achievements of 2019, as was the announcement that the University of North Alabama will soon have a presence in downtown Tuscumbia.

The city used the proceeds of a 2018 $2.4 million bond issue to purchase equipment for city departments and make improvements to city facilities. New businesses, including the popular Superhero Chef, moved into downtown in 2019, and the city completed a new "pocket park" on Main Street.

"We're always going to continue to grow our retail side of things to improve the experience in Tuscumbia," Underwood said. "How can we be more accommodating to those who are here and attract others to be a part of it, too."

He said the focus is not just on downtown, but anywhere in the city.

Underwood said the city is negotiating with some new restaurants, but is not ready to discuss specific names at this time.

He said the previous years were spent improving the infrastructure downtown to make it attractive to new investments.

Underwood said a small amount of bond money was set aside to make some additional improvements to the city's multipurpose center and the Willie Green Community Center.

"It should be expended by the end of next year," he said.

   

Drainage project to continue in Muscle Shoals

In Muscle Shoals, Mayor David Bradford said several projects were completed in 2019, including improvements to the city's storm drainage system, something that will continue in 2020.

The city has applied for an Appalachian Regional Commission grant that would help fund a flood study focusing on the southeastern part of the city. Another grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration would pay for a larger storm drain under Woodward Avenue, which would help drain storm water on the west side of the highway to the city's large retention pond.

"The Miracle Field was a big plus to the quality of life in the city," Bradford said.

The field is a specially designed ball field for adaptive recreation programs.

The city will continue to focus on commercial development along the Wilson Dam Road corridor. A storm drainage project should help improve drainage along Wilson Dam Road, he said.

A Transportation Alternatives Program grant that will allow the city to begin its 10th sidewalk project.

Bradford said the city applied for a competitive federal grant that will fund three new firefighters for three years. This will help beef up the fire department in anticipation of a fourth fire station. The city included two new firefighters in its 2020 budget.

The previous year also introduced residents to a new garbage collection system that involves automated refuse trucks that can be operated with one person. Residents are still getting used to the new system, the mayor said.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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