By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News
On an economic front, Mayor Othell Phillips said Gardendale is in good shape.
An independent audit released recently showed that the city ended the 2011 fiscal year with a balance of more than $7.5 million, including an almost $2.5 million surplus.
In addition, the city has decreased its annual debt from $1.1 million in 2008 to $368,000 in 2012, according to Phillips. He said most of that debt is what the city still owes on the Gardendale Civic Center.
The annual debt will increase by about $200,000 by renovations to the former Food World center; crews are converting it into the new Public Safety Center, set to open in October.
Phillips pointed out that the city created no new debt by the purchase of the former grocery store or the former Caufield Square site, which is to be the future site of a city center, including city hall, a theater, hotel and retail space.
“The city hall will be paid for by the sale of outparcels to new businesses, and will develop a stream of new sales revenue from those new businesses,” he said.
He said the grocery store, bought for $550,000, was paid for by the sale of the city-owned former Anderson Boat building. And the future city center property, at $1.55 million, was paid for by the sale of the current city hall building.
“Even though we’ve faced tough economic times, we’ve held our own,” Phillips said. “Things are moving forward.”
At the future city center, work should begin soon on sewer lines. The first business, Buffalo Wild Wings, is scheduled to break ground in mid-August.
In the past year, 27 new businesses have opened in Gardendale, Phillips said, including restaurants and retail shops.
“We’re trying to create positive controlled growth. We’re opening our city for new business,” he said.
In the meantime, the city has closed the doors on other businesses, by placing moratoriums on pawn shops, title pawns, cash advance shops and used car lots.
As for public works, Phillips received the contract on July 26 from the Alabama Department of Transportation for a resurfacing and restripimg project on Fieldstown Road, from U.S. Hwy. 31 to where the road becomes two lanes.
He said the project should be bid out in September.
A grant covers 80 percent of the cost, which Phillips said totals $1.4 million. The city will pay for the remainder.
In the public safety area, the Gardendale Police Department recently received six new police cars. The department is scheduled to move into the Public Safety Center upon its completion, along with the magistrates’ offices and courtroom.
Phillips said statistics show that crime has steadily decreased in Gardendale in recent years.
The Gardendale Fire Department could see an expansion in the future; Phillips said the city recently purchased two acres at 760 Tarrant Rd., for $12,000, as the site of a future fire station. The city also owns lots on Fieldstown and New Found roads for possible future expansion of a fire station on the west side of Gardendale, Phillips said.
Gardendale employs 165 people — 125 full-time and 40 part-time.