Pelham emerges from 10-year growth spurt
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Records in the third-story archives of Pelham City Hall show that only six employees worked for the newly incorporated city in 1967. Today, after 40 years of rapid growth, a total of 323 people get paychecks from Alabama’s fastest-growing city with a population greater than 10,000.
Fueled by residential and commercial development, Pelham has blossomed on the southern outskirts of Birmingham and the northern section of Shelby County. As Shelby County is the fastest-growing county in the state, Pelham serves as the county’s main indicator for growth.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pelham’s population increased by 21.2 percent from 2000 to 2003. That makes Pelham the state’s fastest-growing city with more than 10,000 people. Likewise, Shelby County’s population grew by 11.3 percent during the same time period, making it the fastest-growing county in the state.
In 1967, just a couple of years after incorporating as a new city, Pelham’s six employees included a mayor, town clerk, police chief, two patrol officers and a maintenance employee. Today, the city relies upon more than 300 people to provide services to the city’s growing population.
When Pelham’s revenue director, Mike Morgan, came to work for the city in 1990, Pelham’s annual budget was about $2.5 million. The city’s budget for 2003 was $27.5 million, Morgan said.
According to Morgan, the fast-growing city has had to increase spending in every aspect, particularly services and staff.
POLICE AND FIRE
Pelham now boasts four fire stations. In 1989, the city hired 10 policemen and 10 firefighters. A total of 63 firefighters now work for the city.
In the past 15 years, city officials built two new fire stations, each requiring new equipment and staff. In 1990, the city built Pelham Fire Station No. 4 on Highway 261. Another new station came in 1991 on Highway 52.
Pelham Fire Department Battalion Chief Danny Endress said the fire department has grown along with the city, thanks to a city council that prioritizes emergency services. Pelham averages between five and eight fire calls a day, Endress said.
&uot;The city has been very generous with us to provide the level of care and service to the citizens that is needed,&uot; Endress said.
With the 10-year construction phase starting in Pelham’s massive, 4,000-home Ballantrae subdivision, the city will soon feature another fire station. Mayor Bobby Hayes said the developer agreed to build the facility, and the city will hire staff and provide new fire trucks.
Today, 76 people work for the Pelham Police Department, with hopes of moving into a new facility soon. Hayes said the department has outgrown their current quarters on the first-floor of city hall, sometimes complicating police business.
&uot;It’s difficult to conduct lie detector tests in there because of the noise,&uot; Hayes said.
Pelham police moved into the first-floor of city hall after fire station number one was built in 1997. Already, the growing department needs more room.
&uot;We have absolutely outgrown the facility we have with the police department,&uot; Hayes said.
The city has secured property for the new police station at the southwest corner of U.S. Highway 31. The property once housed the old First Baptist Church, which now occupies a new building on U.S. 31.
The city has hired an architect to begin designing the new police station. The architect will work with Pelham Police Chief Allan Wade and his staff to determine specifics of the new facility. Hayes said the new station will include holding cells, but he insisted the city is not entering the jail business. Felony prisoners will be held in the county jail.
NEW INFRASTRUCTURE AND ROADS
Traffic has come along with Pelham’s population boom, and county engineer Randy Cole said plans are under way to expand bustling Shelby County Highway 52. The two-lane road that dissects Pelham and Helena will soon stretch across three additional lanes to accommodate the growing number of vehicles that use the road each day.
A massive road project will widen Highway 52 from two to five lanes between County Road 11 and Interstate 65, Cole said. A traffic signal will also be installed at County Road 11.
The Highway 52 corridor has become a new source of growth in Pelham, after the city placed a sewer line along the road five years ago.
Pelham utilities director Ken Holler said the only place the city has left to grow is down County Road 11, where the city already has a 20-inch water line primed for construction.
In order for Pelham to grow along County Road 11, however, Holler said the county must increase the amount of water available. The county is planning for a new water treatment plant on the Coosa River to supply additional water to Pelham for anticipated growth long County Road 11. Holler said the new treatment facility could open in three or four years.
SERVICES AND STAFF
Pelham’s human resources administrative assistant Janis Parks said she has witnessed steady growth since joining the city almost three years ago. One attribute that Parks noticed is the low turnover of city employees, which she credits to the city’s good benefits.
&uot;We look out for the employees,&uot; Parks said.
This spring, Pelham became the first city in the county to take advantage of a new senior community center initiative offered through the Shelby County Commission. According to Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock, the county’s senior population is growing rapidly, and Pelham recognized that early and applied for the program.
&uot;Give (Pelham) credit for preparing for the increasing numbers, as well as the current population over 65,&uot; Dudchock said.
According to U.S. Census figures, 8.5 percent of Shelby County’s population in 2000 were over the age of 65. The Shelby County Planning Commission expects the county’s senior population to more than double within the next 10 years.
The Shelby County Commission approved $200,000, the maximum amount available, for the new senior community center in Pelham. Pelham will match the money through several other sources, including grants.
The new, 6,000-square-foot facility will be located on a 4.8-acre tract of land on Racquet Club Parkway in Pelham. Dudchock said the location is ideal in terms of the large number of seniors living within a short distance, as well as its proximity to amenities such as the racquet club and Fun Go Holler Park, which will feature a walking trail