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Vines hopes for a productive 2021

LaFAYETTE — The voters of LaFayette elected Kenneth Vines their new mayor in November. He’s been sworn into office and is becoming familiar with the duties of the job. He pretty much knows the ropes after having had a 27-year career in the LaFayette Police Department, something that had him working with city officials on a frequent basis. He has big ideas for the future but is realistic enough to know that the most pressing needs will have to be taken care of first.

“Our number one priority heading into the new year is to take care of our water system needs,” he said. “We need a new clearwell, some pipes have to be replaced and some work needs to be done at our water treatment plant. We may have to do it with bond financing. The main thing is that we have to get this straightened out.”

Purchasing land to start a new housing development is part of a four-year plan Vines is looking at.

“Getting the water system fixed is our first priority,” he said. “We will also look at other infrastructure needs. There are 11 streets in the city we’d like to resurface in the coming year. There are equipment needs in each department. We’re looking at getting a new fire engine for the fire department. We do need new housing in the city. We need a plan to do that.”

The present council consists of Terry Mangram in District A, Shannon Hunter in District B, Toney Thomas in C, Michael Ellis in D and Tammie Williams in E.

“We are looking at the main issues right now,” Vines said. “We will deal with one project at a time. Let’s take care of them and close them out. If you try to take care of multiple problems at the same time, you may wind up getting nothing done, and we don’t want that.”

Vines campaigned on getting new businesses for the downtown area. He’s pleased that a new boutique, Give Me Some Sugar, recently opened and that a long-time business, Buds & Blossoms, expanded.

‘We could use some improvements downtown,” Vines said. “We have a committee that will be meeting with store owners to have a plan to renovate some downtown buildings. We need the store owners to meet with us to talk about this.”

Lots of people heading north or south through LaFayette on US 431 often stop in the downtown area to take photos of the Joe Louis statue. The famed boxer was born near LaFayette in 1914, and the statue is something that attracts people to the downtown area.

“Joe Louis still has relatives living here in Chambers County,” Vines said. “Him being from here is something that could help us economically.”

Vines is planning on continuing the development of a city park in LaFayette. It will be developed on a 52-acre site on the opposite side of the LaFayette City Cemetery from Highway 50.

“It’s a complicated process involving a number of steps,” Vines said. “The McRay family has taken the lead on this. We would like to have it up and running in the not-too-distant future. It’s coming along pretty good. We will need to form an advisory committee to work with the family and their attorney, Irvin Silver.”

The new city park would be an ideal place to hike on walking trails, for kids to play soccer and for families to go picnicking.

A survey was done in recent years to determine what LaFayette citizens wanted from city government. Improved recreation was one of the top items mentioned.

“I campaigned on hiring a recreation director,” Vines said. “This person could oversee recreation in general and the new city park. We need to have something for our youth to do in LaFayette. The citizens know what needs to be done to make LaFayette a better place to live. They have been patient for a long time and now want to see results on things like street paving, a new city park and better recreational opportunities for our young people.”

Vines said that he did not want to be the bearer of bad news, but it may be time to see some increases in water rates and what’s charged for cemetery lots.

“To have improvements there is a cost involved,” he said. “People need to ask themselves if they are satisfied with that Pinto or would they rather have a BMW. We haven’t had a rate increase since 2007. I ran on having better water in LaFayette than what we have had. To me that is central.”

Vines said the council will need to look at cutting unnecessary spending in 2021.

There seems to be a lot on his plate in 2021.

“2020 brought a lot of changes,” he said. “I knew people who died of COVID-19. We can’t have another year like that in 2021. I’m from here. I love LaFayette, and I want us to have a better quality of life here.”

Vines is a graduate of Alabama State University and loves to read about the history of LaFayette and the east Alabama region.