North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

February 7, 2014

Lowery says Fultondale's financial health continues to improve

By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News

FULTONDALE — Fultondale has enjoyed considerable economic success in the past few years, and city leaders’ eyes still seem to be set firmly on the future.

On Friday, Mayor Jim Lowery gave his annual State of the City address at city hall.

He recognized the successes of previous mayors and city leaders; this is Lowery’s eighteenth year as mayor.

“There were a lot of things going on when we came into office,” Lowery said. “We took those things that people laid out before us and we tried to build on them and make them better.”

Financially, he said, the city keeps improving. The 2014 budget is almost $12.5 million, up from almost $12 million in 2013 and just more than $10 million in 2010.

The city’s financial health is due largely to the Promenade Shopping Center, which opened in 2007.

“We’re working on bringing more retail that we need and want so we can increase the tax revenue base,” said councilman Joe Bolton, head of the finance committee. “If you’re not growing retail-wise, you’re backing up.”

Lowery said citizens could see work being done soon on the next phase of the shopping center. He and Bolton said city leaders are also working on bringing in other retail businesses, including restaurants.

In 2013, the city hosted eight ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new businesses, the Fultondale Public Library and organizations such as the American Legion and the North Jefferson Women’s Center.

One of the most anticipated new businesses was the Aldi grocery store, which Lowery said did no harm to sales at Winn-Dixie, the only other grocery in the city.

“[Winn-Dixie] is doing as well or better than ever before,” he said.

Also in 2013, the city saw 55 new homes built or under construction, and more than $118,000 sold in building permits. Fultondale also raised almost $982,000 in business license revenue.

As for education, Lowery acknowledged — as he has for years — that Fultondale needs a new high school. He said he has been talking with Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin about building a new high school and converting the existing high school into a middle school.

However, he said Fultondale has to wait and see how Gardendale is going to handle its new city school system, which Gardendale officials hope to be in operation by the 2015-16 school year.

Lowery said Gardendale’s decision about allowing children outside its city limits to attend the new city system will affect Fultondale’s future decisions regarding building a new school.

Although finances and education are critical, Lowery said he also wants citizens to have an excellent quality of life in other areas.

“We want you to have good memories,” he said, citing the city’s involvement in activities such as the Founders Day Festival, numerous veterans programs, free summer movies in the park, Christmas festivities, arts programs and more.

Lowery said he and other city leaders plan to keep Fultondale growing.

“We thank the ones before us, and we hope the future ones keep building on what we’re doing and keeping Fultondale going forward,” Lowery said.

The State of the City address is available for viewing in its entirety at www.fultondale.com.