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Valley looks ahead to fiscal year 2018-2019

VALLEY — The City of Valley has gotten a lot done in the way of capital projects over the last five years. A much-needed upgrade has taken place at Valley Sportsplex, Valley Community Center was expanded to include a new senior center, $1.8 million in road paving has taken place this year alone and some major property purchases have taken place for the purpose of future commercial and industrial development.

The current 2018-18 fiscal year won’t be as active. At a Thursday evening budget work session, Mayor Leonard Riley said that the city would emphasize work needed for the John Soules Foods project and the development of the city’s industrial park.

The city will be working with the East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire Protection District on the water and sewer line improvements that are needed for John Soules Foods. The city has received $750,000 in grants for this project, which should cost around $1.7 million.

The city recently took out a $7.5 million bond issue with AuburnBank that will both pay off a previous bond and free up around $5.5 million for various projects.

“We’re in good financial shape even though we’ve spent our reserve down some,” Mayor Leonard Riley said. “Because of the bond, the reserve has dropped down to just under $1 million, but we will reimburse that by between $300,000 and $400,000 to bring it back to the $1.3 to $1.4 million range.”

City employees have had five straight years of raises. There won’t be one this year as the city does some belt tightening in order to build on its reserve.

The mayor has some common-sense concerns about the national economy.

“We’ve been on a ten-year run on the bull market,” he said. “No one can predict a recession, but we may have one over the next couple of years.”

Annual sales tax collections for the city are running strong and collections on rental licenses and contractor licenses are up for the year.

City Treasurer Cathy Snowden said that department heads have been doing good work in staying within their budgets. Valley EMS ended the year some $414,000 in the hole, but that’s something that won’t affect future city budgets, given that the EMS has transitioned over to East Alabama.

Riley said the the transition has been going smoothly, and that the EMS should be more efficient when paired with a fire department. That’s the way it’s done in the overwhelming majority of Alabama communities.

One pleasant surprise in the recently completed fiscal year is that Community Center memberships grew.

“We expected that they might be down, given the senior center construction,” Riley said.

The city started 2018-19 with a reserve of $4.4 million and ended with just under $1 million.

Riley said he was startled when he first saw that the city had lost $3 million in one year. Snowden explained to him, though, that that’s not what happened.

The starting reserve wasn’t as good as it looked – some of what showed up at the end of the year had actually been committed the previous year – and the starting figure isn’t as bad as it looks, with $400,000 coming back.

“We will build on our reserve this year,” Riley said, “but we still have some work that has to be done at the Community Center.”

The big-ticket item is the replacement of a pool pack that will cost around $325,000. The current one has been there since the Community Center opened in 2002 and is in really bad shape.

The city will be providing $80,000 in matching funds for a $285,000 grant that has been received for improvements for the CV Railway trail.

Another $50,000 will be spent on roof repair work at Valley Police Department and around $17,000 on new computers.

“We won’t be buying any new vehicles,” Riley said. “We could purchase three new police cars late next year.”

For the most part, the budget is level funded.

“We have a $150,000 contribution from the Chambers County Development Authority on the John Soules Foods project,” Riley said. “We will have two separate engineering contracts, one for the sewer lines and one for the new water tower.”

The water tower will be located on some city-owned property off Huguley Road near the new Fuller Center houses. Land clearing has already taken place on the site. Building one at that location, said Riley, would service all land recently purchased by the city.

The pool pack will be bid out in January with a contract possibly awarded in March. Installation will be taking place in April and should take around six weeks, two weeks to take out the old one and four weeks to get the new one up and running. A crane will be needed to do this.

“If everything turns out as well as our new gym floor it will be okay,” Riley said. “They did a great job with that. It looks really good.”

Sales tax collections are up more than $213,000 month over month compared to last year.

“The increase is more than it’s ever been,” Riley said. “The only thing holding us back right now is the price of gasoline. Gas prices are going up,” he said.

“We appreciate our citizens spending their money at home. The money that’s spent here will go back into infrastructure.”

The mayor said it was nice to have the senior center project winding down but wanted to make sure the work had been done right before the contractors are paid in full. There’s an issue right now with the roof that needs to be resolved, he said.

Planning and Development Director Travis Carter informed the council that the demolition work at Langdale Mill had been proceeding at a steady rate.

“They’ve torn down everything up to the main building,” he said. “They’ve been doing a good job of hauling off debris and hauling in dirt to fill in places. They’ve been doing a better job than what’s been done at other mill sites.”