By Justin Jones, Staff Writer
Monday, January 7, 2013 —
Looking back on 2012, the city of Albemarle remained busy planning for future improvement projects while completing some items that are now available for the enjoyment of city residents.
In a list compiled by City Manager Ray Allen, Albemarle received or was given by way of grant monies several items, particularly in the area of public safety, that can be an asset to the city.
In 2012, Albemarle Police Department received two notable grants, one totaling $43,500 from the Gover-nor’s Crime Commission that allowed for the acquisition of technology equipment for the department. The department also received a $50,500 grant from the same commission for use in the city’s drug and gang initiative.
The city also received a grant on behalf of Albemarle Fire Department for $245,000 in a two-year federal grant to fill three firefighter positions.
Within the past year, City Council made several decisions that will carry over into 2013 and beyond.
One of those decisions came about in the fall when city council appointed 15 local business and civic leaders to be placed on the Economic Development Task Force for the purpose of making recommendations to improve the city’s economic development status.
According to Allen, the group, although still in the early stages of their meetings, has been making progress.
“Things are going very well,” Allen said.
“Essentially the first meeting or two were just educating the task force.”
From there, the 15 on the force have been able to hear first-hand from an individual with an industry on what they would look for when expanding into an area. Allen said the force also received a substantial amount of helpful feedback in a survey that was sent out across the area.
In another area of expansion, the city has known for several years that it would have access of the Jesse F. Niven Center after renovations are made to the facility. In 2013, Allen said there should be major progress on the facility after the city decided to borrow from within its funds to finance the renovations.
Allen said that decision was made after learning that federal buildings, as the Niven Center was, cannot be mortgaged, and at the risk of going through a lengthy approval process that would further delay construction, the city decided to follow the same financing route they used with the East Main fire department building.
“It’ll be within a few months and completed within 2013,” Allen said.
“(Albemarle Parks and Recreation) will be able to move in within the year.”
Another department that is going through several renovations is public utilities. Public Utilities will see two key projects gain traction in 2013 with the addition of a new delivery point for the city’s electricity and construction of an equalization basin at the U.S. 52 Water Treatment Plant. Public Utilities’ projects have been placed on the city’s agenda for reviews and awarding of bids so frequently that council members have asked for additional paperwork so that they can stay updated on the nuances of each project. According to Allen, several of the projects are coming together at the same time partly due to aging.
“It’s a combination of things. A lot of it is facilties are aging and getting to a point where renovations are needed,” he said.
And for the case of the new electric delivery point, it is because of growth and to allow room for growth.
“The city has two electric delivery points,” Allen said.
“If one of those goes down, we can’t supply the whole city with the other delivery point. With the new delivery point, if we lose one of the three points, we can still provide power for the whole city. It also allows us to have redundancy and room for future growth.”
Nearing the end of 2013, several city council members and Mayor Whit Whitley will be up for re-election.
Those council members are Judy Holcomb, an at-large seat, Ed Underwood, the district 2 seat, and Jack Neel, the district 4 seat.
Allen said that those seats will have primary partisan elections in the summer to determine who is on the voter’s ballot in November.
Other areas of improvement as noted by Allen:
City’s Public Works Department constructed new sidewalks in the area around East Albemarle Elementary School and Albemarle Middle School through a $51,000 grant from the NC Department of Transportation;
The city won the Tree City USA designation for the fifth consecutive year;
The city won the Playful City USA designation for the third consecutive year;
The city was awarded five awards from Electri-Cities of North Carolina in the categories of Competi-tive Business Environment, Energy Efficiency, Finan-cial Stability, Legislative Involvement and Service Excellence;
The city purchased and placed into service two new fire pumpers in the Fire Department;
The city awarded a contract for a $5 million upgrade to the city’s Long Creek Wastewater Treat-ment Plant;
The city awarded a new contract for solid waste collection to Waste Manage-ment at a savings of approximately $200,000 per year over the previous contract;
The city resurfaced the Rock Creek Park tennis courts; and
Members of the Albemarle Fire Department won the Liftmaster Skills competition at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
To submit story ideas, email Justin Jones at jljones @stanlynewspress.com.
Council will meet for a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, followed by the regular meeting.