Alexander City Mayor Tommy Spraggins believes good things are just around the corner for Alexander City.
Spraggins said the Alexander City City Council made several important decisions in 2019 that will prove fruitful soon for both commercial and industrial development.
“There is a lot of activity I feel optimistic about,” Spraggins said. “A lot of it has been talked about in executive sessions and development meetings. We will be able to announce some things in the first quarter. I’m really excited about the future of Alexander City.”
But the last year didn’t pass without its headaches and heartaches as Alexander City saw the deaths of Mayor Jim Nabors and Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance executive director Don McClellan.
The deaths presented Spraggins and other city leaders with challenges as Spraggins had to step up to the mayor’s plate and LMAEDA had to find a way to work without McClellan who died in June. The LMAEDA board said McClellan’s replacement will hopefully be named in the coming weeks.
Spraggins is used to community service having served as the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce president, Lake Martin Area United Way chairman, being a member of civic clubs and working as a volunteer in youth recreation leagues.
“I grew up here and I want to help Alexander City,” Spraggins said. “I have always engaged in things in the community outside of work.”
Spraggins worked for Russell Corp. for 37 years then another six years at Russell Medical before fully retiring in 2016. He ran for city council wanting to keep his connections to community service then, following the death of Nabors, found himself learning more about city government in a short time frame.
“I wasn’t planning to be mayor when I ran for council, but I’m willing to do it,” Spraggins said. “Being on the council was part of the community service I have done my entire life. It worked well with retirement. Being mayor is a more than a full-time job.”
Spraggins is serving the remainder of Nabors’ term until October but is still undecided if the future will have him in city hall.
“I’m still contemplating running for mayor,” Spraggins said. “I’ve had numerous people to encourage me to run. My wife and I have been having a lot of discussions about it. No matter what, I will still serve others in Alexander City.”
Many of the current projects in Alexander City were part of the vision of Nabors, and Spraggins said he and the council are still following through on many of Nabors’ ideas.
“He had already set us in a direction for much of this,” Spraggins said. “What was thought of a year or two ago and approved last year, we are just now starting to see.”
Spraggins said development along the U.S. Highway 280 corridor and the shorelines of Lake Martin in 2020 will be visual signs of development. Russell Marine is transforming a building into an outdoor center and Alexander City is consolidating services into the Russell Sales Office.
“I’ve had a lot of people come up and say they didn’t know that (Russell Sales Office) was there,” Spraggins said. “We have cleared a lot of trees and you can really see the building. We feel like with it and what Russell Marine is doing will create a reason to stop in Alexander City. We have more than 35,000 vehicles a day passing along there.”
Spraggins said the $10 million investment in the outdoor center will pay off when the center opens, which is expected to be in April.
Five acres of land fronting 280 was part of the purchase but Spraggins said there are no immediate plans for it.
“We have already had interest in it,” Spraggins said. “We haven’t offered any of it for sale. We want to be very careful how we develop it.”
Work converting the Russell Sales Office started Dec. 1 and will be completed by Oct. 20. Spraggins said some might see it as a negative that the municipal project went over the initial budget but in the design phase, leaders decided to make use of space in the building previously slotted to be unoccupied when the city occupies the building.
“The project grew on us,” Spraggins said. “It was initially supposed to be for city hall, police and public works. It will now also include utilities and part of the fire department.”
Spraggins said city employees are excited about the move but said the move will take planning and could take several weeks once the city can occupy the building after renovations are complete.
Spraggins said another sign of growth is Amadeus Development Group LLC purchasing the Russell Main Office and 16 acres. He said the group made up of local business people wants to see Alexander City grow as well.
Spraggins said he understands how many in the community think not much is going on.
“A lot this happens in executive sessions,” Spraggins said. “It is because of it being economic development.”
Spraggins said representatives from Amadeus will be at the Jan. 21 council meeting to make a public presentation of the plans for the building on Lee Street.
Developments at Miner’s Cove and Wicker Point will also lead to growth according to Spraggins.
“Miner’s Cove has installed a new temporary bridge and will be installing a permanent one in the coming months,” Spraggins said. “The first phase will see 24 lots to be ready by spring or early summer.”
Wicker Point is still in the planning stages and is not yet in city limits. The city has requested the legislature approve it to be annexed as an island like Miner’s Cove.
“Miner’s Cove was presented to the legislature and annexation went into effect Aug. 1,” Spraggins said. “Wicker Point will also go to the legislature. We feel confident about it. We are asking for it to be effective as soon as the governor signs it.”
Spraggins said state Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) will be prefiling the bill prior to the legislative session starting in February.
The rental ordinance passed by the council last year had its bumps and bruises along the way according to Spraggins but through meetings with rental property owners, things are now working well. He said information has been passed in roundtable discussions about what inspectors were seeing and property owners made suggestions about streamlining the process.
“The idea was to improve the quality of life for those renting homes and apartments,” Spraggins said. “We have more than 3,400 rental properties in Alexander City.”
Spraggins said the Lake Martin Tourism Association is moving along with its board of directors.
“It is a separate organization,” Spraggins said. “It is funded out of the lodging tax. The city is currently the only organization funding the group with $150,000 budgeted in 2020.”
The lodging tax was raised last year in Alexander City and while it generates more than budgeted, the idea is for the council to approve funding for major efforts by the tourism association.
Other things Spraggins said he and the council are proud of started when they took office in 2016.
“We had several things we wanted to do,” Spraggins said. “We now have monthly financial reporting of the city; we are trying to be transparent. Other things included infrastructure.”
Spraggins said the city is now spending about $1.2 million per year paving about 6 to 7 miles of city streets a year. He said Adams Water Treatment plant is in the middle of a $2.6 million renovation replacing large tanks and the inert landfill expansion is progressing.
Spraggins said the public will hopefully start seeing the efforts of city leaders and come to the conclusion things are getting better.
“I think good things will come in 2020,” Spraggins said. “It’s Alexander City’s future, not Tommy Spraggins future. There are things we hopefully will see soon. I’m very optimistic about where things are going.”