Based on exchanges from the last year, one city’s mayoral race could get heated.
Incumbent Jim Lowery faces opponent John Douglas in the Aug. 28 municipal election for mayor of Fultondale.
Ever since Douglas’ business, Home Field Sports Grill, was destroyed by a tornado in April 2011, he has accused Lowery and the city of purposely preventing him from re-opening the bar and grill. Lowery and other city officials have repeatedly denied that the city is targeting Douglas.
Lowery says Douglas has failed to meet city inspection and zoning requirements. Douglas says the city keeps changing the rules. The city says it is requiring Home Field to play by the same rules as everyone else.
The dispute is still not settled; the business remains closed.
Now Douglas is taking his feud with the city to the next level by running for the top office.
Lowery, who has been Fultondale’s mayor for 16 years, had no opposition during the last election.
“I take that as a vote of confidence from the citizens of Fultondale,” Lowery said, adding that for this election, “I still don’t have opposition from a citizen of Fultondale.”
He said Douglas is a Mt. Olive resident.
Douglas owns a house on Shady Grove Road in Mt. Olive, where he lived for some time, but said he rented an apartment in Fultondale in early May. Douglas said he also owns a rental house on Walker Chapel Road in Fultondale, and that he plans to move into that house in late August when his tenants move out.
Douglas said it might appear that he still lives in Mt. Olive because he is often at that house.
“I spend a lot of time at the Shady Grove house. My office is still set up here,” he said Tuesday. Douglas said he is a day trader in stocks and is often at his home office at 3 a.m. in Mt. Olive following stocks overseas.
“I have an elaborate computer set up here,” he said. “It made more sense to leave the setup here rather than moving it to the apartment and then to the house on Walker Chapel.”
Douglas said he has a stake in Fultondale. Besides the rental house and the Home Field property, he said he owns the Fultondale Auto Sales property and another lot near Fultondale First Baptist Church.
Mayor of Fultondale for the past 16 years, Lowery said he wants to keep doing the work that is “something I enjoy more than any other job I’ve ever had.”
“I want to keep Fultondale growing. I think I do a good job,” he said. “I want to continue to do this for my family and for the citizens of Fultondale.”
Lowery said his first priority as mayor is public safety, and said that if re-elected, it will remain his top issue.
In order to further that goal, he said that as mayor for the next four years, he would continue to maintain and improve all aspects of the city’s police and fire departments. One way to do that, he said, is to keep sending firefighters, police officers and investigators to training programs.
“We’ve sent some of them to schools for two weeks at a time,” he said.
He would also make sure all police and fire equipment stays in good shape and replaced when needed.
Lowery said he thinks that in the next four years, Fultondale could experience the same type of growth it saw in the last few years.
“We’re going to continue to grow commercially and residentially, but especially commercially,” he said “We’ll have as big a boom as when we replaced the elementary school with the shopping center.”
With that type of growth, he sees a need to add more officers to the police department in order to increase residential and commercial coverage.
The city has already expanded the fire department this year by opening a new station on Walker Chapel Road.
Lowery said that with the opening of the new fire station, the city has applied to have the ISO rating in Fultondale improved, which would lower insurance costs for residents.
If re-elected, Lowery said he would also enact the next phase of the city’s Comprehensive Development Plan to include Walker Chapel Road.
He also wants to see the city improve its zoning ordinance. The current ordinance was put into place about 20 years ago.
“It needs to be updated and strengthened,” he said, adding that the city would hire an outside group to examine the ordinance and make recommendations.
Lowery also has more plans for Fultondale’s parks if voters choose him for another four years as mayor.
The city currently has seven baseball and softball fields, and Lowery plans to add five more at the “slate dump” off of U.S. Hwy. 31. “We’re working to acquire that land,” he said.
Adult softball leagues started at Black Creek Park this summer, and Lowery wants to see church leagues and other groups playing more softball and other adult sports like flag football.
Lowery also wants to continue the Rails to Trails project in the city. Crews have improved a walking trail from Black Creek to Interstate 65, and Lowery said he wants to lengthen the trail to Shady Grove. It would be four miles long one way.
As for other city improvements, Lowery said he would continue keeping local streets maintained and would see a project through to get new lighting on Interstate 65 in Fultondale’s city limits. He said the city has received a $2.2 million grant to have the lighting improved along that stretch of the interstate.
A final project Lowery would like to continue is the demolition of vacant, irreparable houses.
Douglas is running on a platform of making the city more accessible to the people.
“I want to make the mayor’s office and city council more responsive to the people of the city,” he said. “They should listen and get input from the citizens before resolutions are voted on, and give ample time to give resolutions and ordinances to be discussed publicly in open council before they are passed or voted on.”
Douglas said one way to encourage more citizen involvement is to move all council meetings to the evenings. Currently, meetings are the second Monday of the month at 6 p.m. and the fourth monday at 11:30 a.m.
He would also like for meetings to be streamed live on the Internet so more people could see them.
Making city finances more readily available to the public is another of Douglas’ platforms.
“They should be open and readily available to anyone who wants to see them,” he said. “If you want to see them, you have to write a letter to get them now.”
As for the big picture of the city of Fultondale, Douglas said that as mayor, he would focus on improving conditions for children and bringing a hospital to Fultondale.
Regarding children, he said the city’s parks should be more available to local children and not to “traveling teams from out of town.”
He said he would also work to build a middle school and later, a new high school to replace the aging high school.
Building a hospital in Fultondale would be a good for all north Jefferson residents, he said.
“It’s going to take a lot of work. We will have to work with our neighboring cities, especially Gardendale,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of land available to make it happen. It’s going to be hard, but it’s do-able.”
He said that since Carraway Hospital closed last year, people have to drive to St. Vincent’s Hospital or UAB Hospital for emergencies.
“Those 15 or 20 minutes could be life or death,” he said.
Another of Douglas’ goals if he is elected as mayor would be for the city to work more closely with the Fultondale Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to be involved with concerned professional and business people and listen to their ideas about what would be the best for the community and the city as a whole,” he said.
There are also some contests for three council spots in Fultondale. Candidates for Fultondale City Council are:
• Council Place 1: Joshua Bryant (i), Shane Cochran, Matthew Weber
• Place 2: Joe Bolton (i)
• Place 3: Darrell Hubbert (i), Jimmie Lay, Mike Snow
• Place 4: Tommy Loden (i)
• Place 5: Thomas “Tip’ Blizard, Theresa Hurst Leipert, Greg Morris, Jeffrey S. Robinson, Walter L. Tibbs