Wheels of progress are in motion
by Jack Mcneely
May 05, 2013 | 489 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack Mcneely
Jack Mcneely
slideshow
Last week I opined about what I perceived as a lack of teamwork between the primary spokes in the wheels of progress. I focused on the apparent parking wars of downtown Jasper, a saga between the City and County played out in the pages of your Daily Mountain Eagle in recent weeks.

I received many accolades from our readers, not only for my column last week but also for our editorial stance and coverage. The parking war erupted several weeks ago when a landowner cordoned off her parking lot at the corner of 20th Street and 2nd Ave, blocking 37 much-needed parking spaces for county employees, and downtown employees and consumers.

Although I have volleyed my share of criticism toward our City and County officials, I, too, recognize times when their actions should be applauded.

Such was the case during the city council’s work session Thursday. With County Commission Chair Billy Luster in attendance, both sides worked in unison as they debated ways to improve downtown parking.

While no official action can occur at a work session, I left the meeting optimistic that both the City and County are doing their share to alleviate the parking woes. Ultimately, it looks like 2nd Ave. and 3rd Ave. could become one-way streets adjacent the courthouse complex by this summer.

Parking along the one-way streets would become diagonal, rather then parallel, thus creating 40 additional parking spaces.

In the meantime, additional handicapped parking spaces will be created in the alley near the back entrance to the courthouse soon, according to Luster.

It does not seem to be in the equation, but the condemned Sherers Auditorium site would seem to be a good location for a fee-based parking complex in the future. But I realize it holds tremendous sentimental value for a lot of good folks here in Walker County.

Additionally Thursday, the City Council appeared to throw its full support to a $1.7 million incentive plan that should seal the deal with a local developer who want to bring several big box retailers to Jasper … and soon!

Robert Jolly of Birmingham-based Retail Specialists – hired by the Chamber addressed council members during their work session. He said the developer is ready to finalize the deal, but requires the $1.7 million incentive package rather than $1.5 million as previously offered by the City.

I believe everyone in attendance Thursday understood that such a retail development justifies the additional $200,000 pledge. I am optimistic the City will approve the increased incentive plan at its regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday.

I am certain that Walker County consumers will be excited when this multi-million-dollar retail development plan and its tenants are announced — hopefully sooner rather than later.

Jack McNeely is publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and may be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.