Only one incumbent to the Walker County Commission, Dan Wright, returned to be sworn in this week.
And three new members — Jed Daniel, Danny Gambrell and Jennifer Williams Smith — now sit on the Jasper City Council.
Any elected office comes with tough decisions, but this new class of politicians face particularly difficult choices at a particularly pivotal time for this area.
Starting in 2018, for example, the Walker County Commission will begin payments on a $9.5 million line of credit, used in 2004 to patch roads and pay basic operating costs. Those payments will continue for 30 years, in which the county will have shelled out $17.7 million in interest.
The annual payment would be $1.7 million. That’s for a commission that has a total budget of $22 million for the 2013 fiscal year.
So the commissioners in office now must prepare the county’s finances so that they will withstand this near-debilitating burden.
The Jasper Council also faces decisions that will affect the city for generations.
The group must decide whether to raise the city’s sales tax by 1 cent for at least the next 20 years in order to finance a new high school building and athletics complex. The project is estimated to cost $61 million.
Walker High School’s current building has been out of date for practically a decade, but the increase would hit the poor the hardest and could possibly send shoppers outside the city.
The council must also decide whether to double a $1.5 million economic incentive to attract three national retailers into the Jasper Square. At the surface it seems like an easy choice, but this project could be a tipping point to show other businesses that the grounds are fertile for retail development in Jasper.
The choices in front of our municipal leaders are huge and plentiful, but they sure aren’t easy.
- Daily Mountain Eagle