City to consider investing in Forward Walker County plan
by Ron Harris
Aug 07, 2013 | 2217 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, addresses the Jasper City Council Tuesday while chamber consultant Fred Mickelson of Funding Solutions looks on. Daily Mountain Eagle - Ron Harris
Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, addresses the Jasper City Council Tuesday while chamber consultant Fred Mickelson of Funding Solutions looks on. Daily Mountain Eagle - Ron Harris
Jasper City Council members heard a brief presentation Tuesday morning from Fred Mickelson, a consultant with Funding Solutions who’s working with the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, on Forward Walker County, a five-year economic growth program developed for the chamber.

Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, joined Mickelson in asking the city to invest in the program, which has four basic initiatives — retail and commercial growth, workforce readiness and education, tourism and image, and leadership and community engagement.

If the council chooses to do so, the city’s investment would be for $50,000 a year for five years, for a total investment of $250,000.

Mickelson said the Walker County Commission has already voted to invest in the program, along with the cities of Sumiton, Dora, Parrish, Cordova and Carbon Hill. In all, the program has approximately 50 investors so far.

According to a brochure touting Forward Walker County, the program “is the county’s road map for orderly, targeted economic growth.”

The four initiatives of the program “are designed to capitalize on our new opportunities while at the same time being able to successfully handle new challenges.”

Lewis told council members that six years ago, the chamber hired Mickelson and Funding Solutions to develop a strategic plan for economic development. Following the success of that program, the chamber brought Mickelson back for Forward Walker County.

“We go all over the nation, and it’s our delight to take a chamber to the next level. It’s not a matter of how big you are or how small you are, it’s where you are and what you’re ready for and what you can do,” Mickelson said in an interview Monday afternoon. “The most exciting thing about this chamber is that it’s equipped and ready to go from being event-driven to being program-driven.”

Being program-driven, Mickelson said, is key to economic growth.

“Number one, you take care of your existing businesses and help them grow and thrive,” he said. “Then you go after the businesses you know you want. The days of going to some kind of conference and setting up a booth and beating your drum is over. Now you decide what you want and you go to them. The bottom line is, you work and work and work and you begin to create these opportunities for growth.”

Forward Walker County calls for an annual budget of $140,000, with a five-year budget of $700,000. Of the annual budget, $60,000 will go to retail and commercial growth, $45,000 to tourism and image, $20,000 to education and workforce readiness, and $15,000 to leadership and community engagement.

Council members have until the Aug. 20 meeting to decide whether or not to invest in the program.

In other business, the council:

•recognized the 12-and-under baseball team from the Jasper Parks and Recreation Department that finished second in the Dizzy Dean World Series in Southaven, Miss., late last month. The team, which was coached by Dell Green, Kevin Pugh, Allen Bonner, Randy Willcutt and Chayne Childers, finished as the Alabama state champions and completed the all-star season with a 15-1 record. It was the first state championship team from Jasper in the last 16 years, according to parks director Mickey Davis.

Team members were Landon Nix, Ryan Pugh, Ben Bonner, Ryan Willcutt, Jarrett McLain, McClain Moser, Braden Wright, Ryan Childers, Slade Harbin, Zac Durham, Russ Green and Josh Marshall.

•presented a proclamation honoring the members of the Jasper Fire Department as part of Firefighter Appreciation Month. Mayor Sonny Posey presented the proclamation to Capt. David Lockhart.

•heard from P.J. Majik about her concerns with the number of payday loan and title loan businesses in the city and their business practices, which include charging excessive interest rates. Majik asked the council about the possibility of placing a moratorium on any new businesses opening in the city.

Currently, 27 businesses that fall under that category operate in the city limits.

•recognized Willie Moore, who invited the council to attend a back-to-school rally presented by the G-Men organization. The program will be held from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday at A.P. Howell Park.

•approved granting special event alcohol licenses to Black Rock Bistro, Greenhorn Saloon and Johnny Brusco’s in order to allow the businesses to operate a beer garden at the city’s upcoming Foothills Festival on Sept. 7 in downtown Jasper.

•heard from city purchasing agent Tommy Knight, who informed the council that GCR Bridgestone (formerly Ziglar-Nelson Tire) had been awarded the bid for tires, lube and maintenence for city vehicles.

Knight also told council members that three lawn care businesses — Premiere Lawn Care, Fred Brock Lawn Care and Tru Green Lawn Care — had the low bids for grounds maintenance in the city.

Knight said 49 bid invitations had been sent out, and 11 responses had been received by the city.

Knight also asked council members to allow him to send out bid invitations regarding cell phones and cell service for the city.

•heard from city clerk Kathy Chambless, who discussed budgets amendments that included an amendment to allow for hiring an additional police officer and an amendment to the budget concerning road work and pipe replacement on Airport Road.

•adopted a resolution concerning applying for a $450,000 Community Block Development grant for an improvement project in the Corona neighborhood. The improvements include road work, sidewalks and upgrades to water lines in the neighborhood.

•adopted a resolution to allow Posey to enter into an agreement with ALDOT to perform work on the right-of-way near Dairy Queen on Ala. 118.

•adopted a resolution concerning 10 homes that currently fall under the city’s nuisance abatement ordinance. Nine properties also fell under the ordinance because of overgrown grass and weeds.

•introduced an ordinance to rezone a .25-acre parcel of property at 1201 Alabama Avenue from single family residential zoning to transitional business zoning.