After rereading The Outlook articles concerning a proposed municipal complex, I feel somewhat better informed but not totally sold on the idea as presented. Mayor Nabors’ comments in the question-and-answer series offered the most enlightenment.
I was pleased to read that he recognizes and is worried about our population not growing, so many people working out of town and the prospects for the next generation. I am glad to see in print that he thinks our community pride is not what it should be. On those points he is so, so right.
Yet, the sales office has been praised as a place that would provide a quick fix and room for future growth. So what is the story here? Do we anticipate growth that would utilize more than 73,000 square feet or not? Where will that potential growth come from and when?
It is also easy to agree with the mayor that “we’ve got to stop the negative things happening to [our] city.” I’m really glad to hear that someone of his stature agrees with me that we should never have lost Russell and that it was because the board of directors went along with moving their corporate headquarters to Atlanta. “It was a terrible move,” he said. Thank you, Bobby and Buffy for waving a red flag on the sales office quick fix.
In his subsequent comments, the mayor mentioned three critical elements of city operations that do need change. The first was customer service and the role of every employee as a diplomat for the city. A need to improve the work ethic followed. We have all experienced those employees that make us proud and unfortunately those that don’t need to be in the public eye. According to the mayor, how we get things done requires a change in mentality. He specifically mentioned the lack of preventive maintenance on the old courthouse as an issue. A concrete maintenance plan and implementation for the future would garner a lot of support.
The Outlook front-page opinion (Dec. 14) that “Change is growth” is at best premature. I don’t think Alexander City fears change but to quote a popular insurance company TV commercial our concerns are more akin to, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Can we reasonably expect that moving to new digs will provide the changes that will bring growth and prosperity to Alexander City?
The opposition to the proposal, which is community-wide and not just downtown, is not as afraid as we are justifiably concerned. The Russell campus is the most glaring example of wasted opportunity on the part of our city. In the rush to tear down the old, we have been left with a much worse image of sheer collapse and ruin with no hope in sight. It begs the question: are industry and jobs avoiding Alexander City because the courthouse has been neglected? Is it the building that houses city hall that turns people off or how we conduct our business? Is it really that difficult and embarrassing to find the city engineer? Maybe he could eagerly meet prospects somewhere else, like Starbucks if we had one, or Publix. That would be impressive.
If changing our image and impressing developers is so important, how much longer will we have to endure the Russell rubble and the orange cones and fencing around the current city hall building? Are our recruitment efforts on hold for 2019 because someone is embarrassed by the condition of our facilities? We need change now and shouldn’t have to wait for renovations or new construction to be completed. We need jobs; we’ve waited long enough and heard enough excuses and hearsay of secret plans of little significance.
The business community consisting of stakeholders with substantial investment in taxable property and businesses has raised questions about the proposal and been labeled as narrow-minded, fearful naysayers. The community as a whole was chastised for not attending the work session or one of the proposal presentations. I contend that our council, like the Russell board, does not have the (retail) experience necessary to judge the merits of the current proposal one way or the other. We have to listen to understand, all of us.
Yes, we do need more parking downtown, and moving the police and city administration will provide some relief. But the remedy stops there. What we don’t need is more green space or a splash pad on Court Square. Strand Park could be more conducive to activity with a fence along Tallapoosa Street. What happened to that plan? And where is Hamp Lyon Stadium, a preservation project that totally destroyed that asset. Now we want to demolish the old courthouse, the one where Hank Williams spent time and which would be an important element for our new tourism initiative. We need retail stores that all those tourists can enjoy — viable, income- and tax-producing retail space, not green space.
In his comments, Mayor Nabors said he would like to have a second term. I would support that because it will take that long for him to create the change that he has alluded to. This would be the perfect timing and timeframe to make the transition, under his guidance, to a city manager form of government. Otherwise, when his tenure is up, we’ll go right back to the way we’ve always done things. As Councilman Funderburk asked, “If not now, when?”