Roads, business development a focus for Jasper in 2018

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/30/17

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary says 2018 is going to be a memorable year for the City of Jasper.

O’Mary visited the Daily Mountain Eagle office Thursday to talk about his hopes for Jasper in the new year and what its citizens can expect in the …

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Roads, business development a focus for Jasper in 2018

Posted

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary says 2018 is going to be a memorable year for the City of Jasper.

O’Mary visited the Daily Mountain Eagle office Thursday to talk about his hopes for Jasper in the new year and what its citizens can expect in the coming months.

The largest project the city will tackle in 2018 will be a number of road improvements across Jasper, which O’Mary expects to cost between $7 and $7.5 million, made possible by a bond issue.

“We will embark on the largest street paving project that’s ever taken place in the City of Jasper,” O’Mary said. “I met with an engineering firm in early December to talk about making a presentation to our council about how they would approach this project.”

Once the council hears a presentation on the project, a map of the city will be examined where streets in Jasper will be assigned scores, based on how desperately roads are in need of repair. Council members will then prioritize the streets in their districts that need the most attention.

O’Mary said 80 percent of roads in Jasper could potentially be improved as part of the project, according to early estimates from the city’s public works department.

“We hope to have all this done and be in position to start in maybe May. It’s important to have warm weather so you have a good bond to the asphalt when the paving starts,” O’Mary said. “We want to make sure that whatever we do, we do it correctly so we can get the most distance out of the taxpayers money, and whatever we can pave is quality.”

Outside of the district-wide project, Airport Road in Jasper will be widened and reconfigured to allow for safer access to businesses along the busy stretch of road. O’Mary said the project has been delayed for many years because the city must make a 20 percent match on the project — something they couldn’t financially do in years past. Now the city is in good financial standing to make the match, with federal monies covering the remainder of the project.

“It will make it safer. It will be easier for folks to get into those various retail establishments. It will be a challenge while it’s going on,” O’Mary said. “We also have the funds to do some work that falls outside of the project that we have to bear 100 percent of the cost, but I think everybody will be pleased with what’s going to happen at Airport Road.”

Bids for the Airport Road project will be examined in late January.

The city will also use roughly $1 from a bond issue to repair storm drainage around the Jasper Civic Center — an area that is prone to flooding in the city.

O’Mary said street work will be more efficient in 2018, because the bond issue allowed for $1 million in new equipment for the street department. The department only had enough equipment for one crew to use in years past, but they now have enough resources to equip three full repair teams.

“Why can we do most of these things? Rock solid financial management. ... It laid the foundation for us to do these things,” O’Mary said.

The streetscape of downtown Jasper is an ongoing project that will result in paving, new sidewalks and trees to improve the aesthetic of the downtown district.

Business development will continue to be another focus for the city in 2018, and O’Mary says many retailers are interested in locating in Jasper. He said Jasper is also poised for industrial recruitment, and their Spec building has some prospects. O’Mary also said Yorozu leaders have expressed their happiness in being part of the city.

Developing the exits off I-22 is still on the drawing board, due to a lack of sewer in some areas that hinders development. O’Mary said he had talked with the state highway director about getting more lighting at the I-22 exit to Highway 269, and he was told more development in the area was needed before lighting would be considered.

In terms of the retail climate along Highway 78, O’Mary said he is concerned about the future of the Jasper Mall. “I think there’s some real challenges ahead,” he said.

“Business development is going to be key to the future of the city,” O’Mary said. “I am working now with both the Jasper Industrial Development Board and the Walker County Economic Development Authority to look at how we will do things moving forward.”

He added, “As we wrap up the year and see what our gasoline sales taxes are, that’s a pretty good indicator of retail traffic.”

Other things Jasper residents can expect in 2018:

•O’Mary said Jasper may receive a new animal shelter in 2018.

“I’m feeling very optimistic that somewhere in 2018 we can get a new animal shelter underway,” he said.

The proposed shelter would be located at a city-owned 27 acre property located on Walston Bridge Road N. in Jasper, but an agreement must first be made regarding the land before the city can move forward.

The City Council has not officially approved the construction of a new shelter, but O’Mary said council members do have an interest in making the project a reality.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

The current City of Jasper Animal Shelter is located along Birmingham Avenue in Jasper.

•O’Mary said a drone will be sent over Town Creek in Jasper during the first two weeks of January to identify any blockages that may be present. The street department will then clear those obstructions.

•The City of Jasper is working on an unspecified annexation that O’Mary believes citizens will be happy about. If made a reality, an announcement should be made during the first 60 days of 2018.

•A new revenue and tax compliance department will go live. A director was hired the first week of December.

•Jasper’s magistrate and senior court clerk are set to retire in March, and the city is working on a new organizational chart that will be implemented in January.

O’Mary said he’s excited to see what is in store for Jasper in 2018.

“I’m as excited as I can be about 2018,” he said. “I believe it’s going to be a really, really good year for the city in a lot of ways.”