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Plan could start debate on City of Valley’s needs

The City of Valley is currently working with the East Alabama Planning & Development Commission in Anniston on a new comprehensive plan for the city.

It’s not the first such plan for the city but will be the first new one in a number of years should it be approved by the council next spring.

Ryan Kallem, the principal planner for the Regional Commission, has made several updates to the council since the process started in February 2017. In his latest report on Monday of this week he presented a number of needs that have been perceived thus far. This has been determined through a community survey, a facilities survey, a business owners survey and an analysis of land use, zoning and environmental constraints.

Kallem has been working with the city’s planning department on this plan.

There are some interesting needs in the analytical survey that was released on Monday. First of all, people need to understand that for the moment this is more of a wish list than an adopted plan that is being implemented. The mayor and city council will determine if any of the stated needs will be addressed and become action items.

A lot of good ideas are mentioned. It’s hard to find fault with having two more patrol officers and another detective for Valley Police Department, a new drug officer for the drug task force and especially a new school resource officer. Continuous training is a worthy pursuit and gosh knows police officers deserve more pay for what they do. All of this is in the summary.

Something really interesting is the suggestion of having a new fire department in Shawmut. It’s listed as a long-term strategy. That’s probably a good idea since East Alabama just opened a new station in Fairfax. No question that one was badly needed and could result in Valley having an improved ISO rating, which helps homeowners save on fire insurance premiums.

The hard sell on all of this is the suggestion of a new funding mechanism such as a property tax. The city doesn’t have one, and I don’t think there’s a lot of people clamoring for one. As a long-term goal, having a new fire station in Shawmut would be good for those who live there, and being right in the middle of everything, would boost firefighting readiness all over. Mutual aid is a very good thing.

No complaints here with the needs cited in education. More teachers, better discipline, more involvement by parents, more funding for summer school, air conditioned gyms, more after-school education, better security, improved technology – all this is great if it can be fitted into a budget.

Kallem did bring up a good point in the way of water needs. More than a quarter of the pipes in the city are the outdated two-inch kind.

“These lines are not large enough to adequately serve residential areas, especially for fire protection,” he said. “Plans should be to upgrade two-inch lines to six-inch lines in areas with the most need.”

The ideas brought out in the survey are good. The issue here is how many of them can be implemented given spending limitations. Should it be adopted, the new comprehensive plan shouldn’t be put on a shelf to gather dust. It should serve as a road map for where the city needs to go.

Valley won’t be getting there overnight, but I’m confident city leaders will continue with the hard work of making the city a better place to live.