New Fire Station, Drainage Project, Completion of Sewer Lines Could Be in Cards
By BOB PALMER,
Jimplecute News Editor
In a wide-ranging interview before the first City Council meeting of 2019, Jefferson Mayor Charles “Bubba” Haggard said a new City Hall did not appear likely this year. An assortment of other municipal improvements did appear to be on the table, however.
“I don’t see where we’re going to get the money to do it,” Haggard said of the City Hall. Haggard noted that the previous administration had spoken of a grant to help the city with the project, but that does not appear likely, now.
“That turned out to be false,” Haggard said of the grant. Now the proposal is for “a loan for over $2 million. I can tell you right now, the city can’t afford that.”
Haggard and the council may have another idea. “We’re going to try to look to see if we can find enough money to build a fire station,” Haggard said. “I think that’s the most pressing need, but there’s just not a whole lot of extra money to do (a City Hall) without borrowing it.”
Once the Fire Department is relocated, Haggard agreed the city might consider remodeling the existing City Hall built in 1927 as a gas station. Haggard would like to see drainage in the city improved in 2019. “We’re in the process of trying to get a grant for drainage areas, where you can redo the drains in the city on the ditches and some of that stuff like that,” Haggard said.
The grant would be for up to $2 million. “I don’t know whether we’ll get that much or not, even if we get anything,” Haggard said, “but we need to try to drain the city better. We’re going to try to get the base flood elevation map finished this year. Hopefully, we can get some money to help.”
City Administrator, Tourism
Haggard said he did not see a need for the city to hire a new city administrator. “I feel like I’m doing as much or more than any city administrator we’ve ever had,” Haggard said. The mayor also noted, the city was still paying the severance package of former administrator Kevin Huckabee.
Haggard said it was too early to tell if the arrangement with the Marion County Chamber of Commerce to administer the municipal tourism office would become permanent. “We’re early in the process,” Haggard said. “We’re still not exactly sure how it’s going to work out.” Haggard sees the Chamber working with the Tourism Board appointed by the Council to craft and execute tourism efforts.
“Kari Alexander, I think, is an excellent person to head that,” Haggard said of the Chamber’s executive director. “She’s got the personality for it. Things could crop up along the way where it won’t work, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Cats & Dogs
In the wake of the collapse of the Dixie Humane Society shelter, Haggard said the city does not have a plan to collect strays or what to do with them. “We haven’t had any issues so far,” Haggard said. The mayor indicated the city will develop a policy when it becomes necessary.
“We’ll take that as it comes, I guess,” Haggard said. “There’s no place to take them. I don’t know what we’ll end up doing with them.” The city had paid Dixie Humane Society $13,000 to collect strays and provide them shelter for this fiscal year. Haggard has asked to legal clarification of where the parties stand.
Some residents have also asked the city to help sponsor a spay/neuter clinic for feral cats.
“It’s not free,” Haggard noted. He agreed, however, the idea was a good one. Some residents were alarmed Tuesday when a property owner began boarding up a vacant building on Walnut Street where they believed families of feral cats lived. The property owner assured everyone he would not leave cats trapped inside.
The city also hopes to complete water and sewer improvements begun in 2018. “The status of it is we’ve had to basically stop it because of the wet weather,” Haggard said. “Most of the water stuff is done – not all, but most. The sewer really hadn’t started yet, and we’re not going to be able to do the sewer work until it dries out some because it’s an open cut, on grade situation.”
Haggard said he appreciates the patience of Soda Street residents through the construction and wants to see their street repaved when both water and sewer projects finish.
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