181231 Four Mayors

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

Shoals mayors visited Washington, D.C., last week and discussed issues of importance to the area, such as flood recovery, various grant projects and the Tennessee Valley Authority's response to the February flood.

Florence Mayor Steve Holt, Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford, Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford and Tuscumbia Mayor Kerry Underwood said the annual trip gives them a chance to let congressional leaders know what's going on in the Shoals.

The group met with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks and U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt.

In April, a larger contingent of Shoals leaders sponsored by the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments met with congressional leaders. NACOLG Executive Director Keith Jones was involved in both trips.

"What I've learned in 2 1/2 years is it is so much about relationships," Underwood said of the visits. "We're building and understanding between what we do and what they do."

He said the mayors met with officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss repairing infrastructure damaged by the flood, and mitigation opportunities that could reduce the impact of future floods.

"We need FEMA fully funded to be able to care for some of these disasters," Bradford said.

Colbert County governments will be receive 75 percent reimbursement from FEMA for repairing February's flood damage, and another 12 1/2 percent from the state, Underwood said.

Holt said he discussed a $200,000 project to repair the barge crane at the Port of Florence, and asked about securing funding for a bridge across Cypress Creek that would be part of the College Street extension. He said U.S. Sen. Doug Jones's office is assisting with a grant application for that project.

All four mayors met with officials with the Essential Air Service program to discuss commercial air service in the Shoals. 

"They said our boardings are up and to keep on marketing it to get more boardings to Atlanta," Bradford said.

Boutique Air must board at least 10 passengers per day and maintain a maximum per passenger subsidy amount of $200 to be in compliance with its EAS contract. 

"Our subsidy is slightly up over $200, which is better than some places," Bradford said.

He also spoke to legislators and their staff about a flood study he'd like to conduct on the southeastern part of the city to find ways to alleviate the impact of future flooding.

"I want some professional advice how to proceed in that area," Bradford said.

He also said more drainage capacity is needed under Woodward Avenue, which is the route of U.S. 43 and U.S. 72.

What all four mayors agreed on was the Tennessee Valley Authority deserves congratulations for the way its river management personnel managed the floodwaters to try and minimize the flooding the best they could.

"It could have been worse," Underwood said. "We wanted to be sure to send a 'thank you' from the Shoals area to the guys who manage the river."

They also said it's important they met with officials as a group.

"We're as much a collective as we are individuals," Underwood said.

"I know they listen and pay attention," Holt said.

russ.corey@timesdaily.com

or 256-740-5738. Twitter

@TD_.RussCorey

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