By Adam Smith
The North Jefferson News
The Town of Brookside is a whirlwind of activity.
The town will hold its second-annual Brookside Greenway Festival Saturday at Bensko Ballpark. More importantly, the town is also nearing completion on a 30-acre civic complex.
The complex has been in the works since floods in 2003 and 2004 wiped out the town hall and post office and forced 41 families to relocate from flood-devastated homes.
Since then, the town’s administrative offices have been located in two trailers on Main Street.
Thanks to more than $3.5 million in grant money and a USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] loan, the town of Brookside began to rebuild.
The new civic complex will feature a town hall, community center, post office and fire station. Workers from Alabama Power were at the complex site Monday, installing underground power lines.
Construction work on the complex is being done by Bennet Construction of Homewood. The complex could be completed as early as June.
The new town hall will be topped by a large green-tinted plexiglass dome and will feature administrative offices and a drive-through lane to pay water and gas bills.
Adjacent to the town hall is the community center which can be rented out for showers, teas or parties.
Additionally, the basement of the fire station will comprise the largest community storm shelter in Jefferson County and will accommodate 300 residents.
“When a tornado comes, you’ll want to be in Brookside, Alabama,” said Mayor Roger McCondichie on Monday.
McCondichie, who joined the town council in 1975, was elected as mayor in 1992.
He makes no bones about the town’s old reputation as a rough mining town. However, after the floods nearly destroyed the town, McCondichie set out to rebuild the town’s image as an outdoors destination hub.
The town has used federal grants to assistance from the Five Mile Creek Greenway Partnership to restore the creek and construct more than two miles of lush greenway in hopes of attracting campers, hikers and bike riders.
However, McCondichie said it will also take access to those resources to revitalize the town. He said the town needs an interstate exit to bring in more visitors, businesses and possible industry.
There’s no shortage of property that would be needed to build an exit to connect with the proposed northern beltline, which would cut a path across north Jefferson County. McCondichie said there were about 5,000 acres of unused property.
“I’d love to have an exit anywhere,” he said. “We just need a way to get people here.”
Efforts to obtain information from the Alabama Department of Transportation about a possible exit for the town were unsuccessful as of press time.
State. Sen. Scott Beason said the town could benefit from an interstate exit, but he said town leaders should have a management plan in place.
“They’ll blow up too quickly if they don’t manage it properly,” Beason said.
He also said the town is in a unique position to have a “do-over” and capitalize on its natural resources.
“It’s a town with a local culture and could really be a neat place,” he said. “If they did a themed development around the town and controlled development, they could be a shining star in the county.”
By Adam Smith