(This is Part 2 of a two-part story.) Mayor David O'Mary said the city is looking at a number of tech upgrades, including Wi-Fi for downtown Jasper and a recharging station for electric …
(This is Part 2 of a two-part story.)
Mayor David O'Mary said the city is looking at a number of tech upgrades, including Wi-Fi for downtown Jasper and a recharging station for electric cars.
O'Mary spoke on a number of city projects during a State of the City presentation to the Jasper Rotary Club on Tuesday.
The mayor said after talking to Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, he realized technology "was a must if we were going to be a city of the future," and asked him for advice on who to turn to. He said Alabama Power's Innovation Department is getting involved in such "smart city" issues, which O'Mary feels will be beneficial for the city.
"One of the things that might happen first is to bring Wi-Fi to downtown Jasper," he said. "We've been down to Montevallo and saw what happened there under the guidance of the University of Montevallo. I wouldn't be surprised in the first quarter of this year if we are able to make an announcement in that direction that we go from there. We need to be in a position where people could come to live in Jasper and work for a company in Chicago." He said Huntsville is full of people who work of companies out of the nation and out of state.
"We're going to put a high priority on getting in position from a technology perspective to be able to track those folks," he said, adding officials are going to "bring Jasper into the 21st Century from a technology perspective." He said finding the funding for that work will play a major role.
O'Mary said he is also working with the Walker Area Community Foundation and made some inquiries in Huntsville on the idea of getting a charging station for electric cars in Jasper. He said such a station could possibly be in the downtown area.
"It will pull people off the interstate," he said. "I don't think it is a staggering cost to do that. Huntsville is going to share that blueprint, and we're going to see if we can't make that happen."
He said in his first year the city borrowed funds and earmarked $7 million for a paving plan, the first phase of which is complete. Weather has hindered work, but once it settles Phase 2 will get underway earnestly across the city. About 75 percent of all the streets that need to be paved can be, he quoted engineer officials as saying. The paving life probably being 15 to 20 years, which lines up with the amortization period of the loan.
The Doctor's Branch drainage project at the Jasper Civic Center is a favorite for O'Mary. He pointed to an March 1974 story in the Daily Mountain Eagle, showing at the time a study of Jasper's drainage showed a new drainage system would cost $1.5 million and would take a year to put into effect - and pointing out the worst conditions were along Doctor's Branch. The city was to meet again on the proposal on April 8, 1974 — five days after the tornadoes struck in Jasper and across the region.
"We have fixed it this year for $926,000 rather than $1.5 million, and it is working," he said.
He pointed out the replacement of LED lighting on 2,800 street lights on a recommendation from Walker County officer manager Britton Lightsey of Alabama Power. That project is about to conclude. "That has changed to look of our city. The streets are safer," he said, noting comments have been favorable.
O'Mary said new body cameras for the police department have stopped calls to officials that said, "Your officer was rude to my wife" or other relative by making certain statements or doing certain actions.
He pointed to the February 2018 annexation of level land on the east side of Walker County Lake into the city, which has led to an archery park, and the city will likely use its own equipment soon to develop a 2-mile walking or nature trail. He also noted "cursory work" has been done to look at some of the level land for residential development.
The city has purchased more than $100,000 to update police and fire equipment, and $300,000 was spent on new police cars to eventually rotate a small number of new cars each year.
He noted as of Monday the Greater Birmingham Humane Society took over animal shelter duties for the city, as the contract started. "We'll spend about $250,000 a year on it. That's more than we were spending, but these people know what they are doing. They are doing deep cleaning at our existing shelter," he said. "As soon as they get their feet on the ground, we're going to White House Road. We have a house there, and we will build a new animal shelter."
He noted the city is working with the Walker County Commission to upgrade the Farmer's Market on county property. It will take $25,000 to pave its parking lot, and O'Mary proposed the council a few days ago, with the mayor putting up $10,000 in discretionary money, with the council coming up with that much. The county will pay $5,000, as well as coming up with a new sign and facade. The Walker Area Community Foundation also wants to participate in the project, which may adjust the numbers. The asphalt surface will last 25 years and include striping and handicapped parking.