JASPER CITY COUNCIL

Mayor talks 4-point investment plan for city

By JAMES PHILLIPS
Daily Mountain Eagle
james.phillips@mountaineagle.com
Posted 7/20/21

During a work session on Friday, Jasper Mayor David O’Mary reported the city is expecting to finish the fiscal year with a 16 percent increase in tax revenue and the largest monetary reserve in the …

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JASPER CITY COUNCIL

Mayor talks 4-point investment plan for city

Posted

During a work session on Friday, Jasper Mayor David O’Mary reported the city is expecting to finish the fiscal year with a 16 percent increase in tax revenue and the largest monetary reserve in the city’s history, which could mean between $3 and $4 million in budget surplus.

O’Mary told members of the Jasper City Council that he would like to see that surplus be used to do several things in the city that would pay dividends for generations.

“This isn’t some sales pitch, but it is some things that I think could beneficial to our city for many years after we are all gone,” O’Mary said. “The council can make the decisions on this items that I want to discuss, but I think we have shown that we are on strong financial footing, and we need to do things to improve all parts of our city.”

O’Mary discussed a  4-point plan that included talk of a major sports complex, a new city hall, paving more streets and funding for industrial development.

Development and construction of a sports complex was the first item discussed. The development would be planned for property located in the area of Industrial Boulevard and Walker County Lake. The complex would be city-developed, -owned,-maintained and -operated. The vision and scope for the project would include state of the art facilities that would be determined by an independent consultant, based on what best fits the area. O’Mary also discussed a group hoping to use land in that area for a large housing development.

“We need this type of complex in our city,” he said. “It won’t be self-sustaining, but it will be something that will draw people to Jasper.”

The possibility of a new city hall at the existing Sherer Auditorium in downtown was next on the agenda. The idea was posed to develop administrative offices in the historic building. Plans to attempt to return the building’s façade to its original WPA state were discussed and further included possibly utilizing basement space for rental and other opportunities. A professional architecture firm would be retained to begin looking. The current Jasper City Hall location would then be used mostly for municipal court.

“I think that just makes sense,” the mayor said. “We have wanted to do something with Sherer for a long time. This fills a need for us, and it also ensures we keep a historic building within our city.”

O’Mary proposed a new paving allocation that would include prioritizing roads based on severity of degradation and need. Priority of roads paved will be determined as before by an independent engineering firm. This was estimated that it could reach $5 million worth of infrastructure investment. 

“Jasper paved 70 percent of our roadways with a $9 million investment several years ago,” O’Mary said. “This would allow us to pave the remainder.”

A discussion was held with District 4 council member Jennifer Smith and District 5 council member Willie Moore saying they have significant needs in their districts for paving.

“I know how this goes at times, and we (Districts 4 and 5) get put on the backburner,” Moore said. “We cannot have that any more. We need roadwork done in all areas of the city.”

The final proposal on the list presented by O’Mary was to establish a fund to be available to the Jasper Industrial Development Board (JIDB) for economic and industrial development. The fund would set aside up to $2 million that could be used for JIDB projects such as land acquisition or property improvement.  To access these funds, the JIDB would make a request to the city council and request amounts based on individual projects. The council would allocate or deny funds. 

During the work session, no votes could be taken on the projects, but council members asked O’Mary to move forward with a “fact-finding” phase for each. The council will meet today at 10 a.m. at Jasper City Hall, but no action is expected to be taken on any of the projects brought up by the mayor at the work session.