A year ago an opinion piece appeared here with a wish list for the community for the coming year. Happily, we can report progress on most of the items listed.
In fact, Mayor Tim Kent said the city has had about $40 million in projects going on at no additional cost to taxpayers. Funds are coming from grants or loans to be repaid with user fees.
The city’s new wastewater treatment plant is expected to be ready about August. The $15 million cost is coming from the sources mentioned so there is no direct cost to taxpayers and the move to the new plant will make life in the sportsplex and park areas more pleasant in terms of odor. The plant should be good for many years, will expand industrial capability and one small benefit will be the removal of the brown sewer pipe that runs across the Tallahatchie just south of the downtown bridge.
Plans to renovate the former Fred’s building are moving ahead, albeit slowly. The increase in the cost of building materials is forcing city officials to rethink plans considerably and they are delaying some in hopes that prices will come back down.
Along with plans for the Fred’s building are plans to renovate the former WIC building
on Carter Avenue. The intention is to use the WIC building for a city board and court room while the Fred’s building will include the light, gas and water and police departments.
The project also is being mostly paid for by the light, gas and water department, through user fees and no additional cost to taxpayers.
Although it hasn’t been mentioned lately, the city has done work on a dog park. Initially, the project was talked about as being in part of the Park Along the River but drainage and other problems helped rule that location out.
Now, the dog park will be adjacent to the tennis complex near the south end of Tallahatchie Trails. The area is fenced in but needs installation of benches and water stations before opening to the public. That should come in the next few months.
Also hoped for were improvements to the Wilson Street Park, home to the community house and, years ago, city pool.
Just in the past week, landscaping, new walks and a patio have been added around the building. The structure itself has been largely renovated with interior space expanded and a new kitchen added. On the lower part of the block, new playground equipment has been installed, existing equipment upgraded and trees, picnic tables and benches are being added.
Off-street parking will be added approximately where the pool used to be and the community center should be ready for rental almost immediately.
Some grant money has been used on these projects along with tourism tax money that has been put away for the project over several years.
Although it has not been formally opened, the new terminal building at the New Albany-
Union County Airport is essentially ready.
Paid for through MDOT and FAA grants, the new building is several times larger than the old terminal with offices, lobby, and even a sleeping area for pilots passing through.
Another hope was to see the civic center put to more use. The pandemic has hampered that but the center has a new manager who has done a lot despite the pandemic problems and we think she will greatly expand events and programs once people are able to get out more and participate in such events.
The welcome center was finished beside the Tanglefoot Trail, although is it not yet open, and the city is getting a new main electric power substation that should also expand potential capabilities and reduces outages.
Of course, challenges do remain.
Street maintenance continues to be a perennial problem. Extra tax millage was added
year before last specifically for street repairs and this will help in having most of Moss Hill Drive and some shorter streets resurfaced this spring.
Unfortunately, street maintenance simply costs quite a bit and streets are always deteriorating. An engineering study of city streets basically reported that to make recommended repairs to the city streets would cost roughly the equivalent of the entire city budget for a year.
Another recurring problem is lack of parking space from time to time.
There is plenty of parking space by the library and the city now owns the parking area at the former Fred’s store but local residents seem reluctant to walk that far to get to Bankhead or Main streets.
The problem is worsened, some merchants say, because employees park in front of businesses in spaces that should go to shoppers.
Parking space cannot be created out of thin air, but a parking ramp could be erected behind City Hall or behind the police department, once the PD moves to the Fred’s building.
Some other issues that were mentioned a year ago have seen no real action.
One concerned restaurants.
While we do have plenty of places to eat, we don’t have full menu sit-down family restaurants quite like Shoney’s (we do have Cracker Barrel) and we don’t have a family steakhouse that is open every day of the week. Both out-of-towners and locals are almost out of luck if they want something other than fast food on Sundays after church.
Despite the hefty price tag, we do need an aquatic center or at least a pool.
And if we wanted to be really ambitious, the county owns some property by the fairgrounds that would be good to create a folk arts center unlike anything else in the state. Museum director Jill Smith has laid the groundwork for this with her Pioneer Days.
It would be a first for the state and a regional attraction.
In summary, New Albany and Union County are doing a lot of things right, and are the envy of their peers in many respects.
One official who works with counties throughout Northeast Mississippi has reportedly called New Albany the most progressive town in his area.
But by doing even more of these improvements we could really leave other towns in the dust, perhaps gaining even more national esteem as well.
We’re headed in the right direction; we just need to keep pushing.city projects, Infrastructure, New Albany, Northeast Mississippi, Union County, update