KIMBERLY — Another article in a series from our Progress 2013 ediiton, spotlighting life in our north Jefferson cities and towns.
Mayor Bob Ellerbrock doesn’t sugar-coat his city’s situation.
“It’s still a challenge, and it hasn’t gotten any better. But it hasn’t gotten any worse,” the first-year mayor said of the city’s ongoing financial issues.
Ellerbrock and the city council have put austerity measures in place that include cutting city workers’ hours and mayoral and council pay.
“We’ve made these cuts ahead of time so that we don’t have to go into debt,” he said.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some improvements made in the past year. Kimberly now has a professional fire department, at least in part, with two full-time firefighters working during the day. That came about largely due to the construction of the new Mortimer Jordan High School on the city’s outskirts.
“We’ve also restarted an economic development board, which includes two council members and two private citizens, to try to spur some business growth here,” Ellerbrock said. “That would be the most stable growth we could get.”
That’s at the root of much of Kimberly’s financial problems — a lack of businesses that generate sales tax revenue. A commercial tenant has still not been found to replace the closed IGA supermarket.
Ellerbrock has begun talks with Johnny Ragland, the new mayor of neighboring Warrior, about developing some sort of recreation facility along the Warrior River’s Locust Fork, which runs between the two cities. He’s also talked with Ragland about a new chamber of commerce to encompass the two municipalities. “We need to be able to help each other,” Ellerbrock said.