Economic growth top issue at forum

Two of the three candidates for mayor attended Tuesday’s election forum at Shelby County High School, and one of the major issues of discussion was economic growth.

Incumbent Mayor Allan Lowe said that he and the county have a good relationship and are currently working on an “enormous project” that will bring tourism dollars into the city’s economy. He would not say what the project is. In addition to the project, Lowe said the city needs to look at outdated zoning ordinances and discussed business in the city.

Lowe said the Columbiana’s distance from Interstate 65 and U.S. 280 forces the city to look at development other than the big box retailers.

“Columbiana has a nature, a charm that we can be successful and profitable on the more specific, higher quality [business] than what you can get at a large retail box,” Lowe said.

Opponent Gregg Rushton challenged the city’s view on its distance from the major roadways.

“The city does not reach out and encourage people to come here and do business. There seems to be attitude as if we have a wall around the city and as long as we keep that wall then things will stay the same and things will stay as good as they are,” Rushton said.

He later said that Columbiana has a Mayberry appeal, but at one time the county looked to the city as its Camelot.

Rushton said that in order to gain economic growth in the city, there needs to be new residential developments.

In addition to the need to bring in business, city council candidates mentioned a variety of issues including a new senior center, public transportation, sidewalk repairs and sidewalk expansion.

Mayoral candidate Danny Kelley was not in attendance.

City council candidates in attendance were: Frieda Abrams, District 1; Leslie Whiting, District 1; Stancil Handley, District 2; Bruce Fryer, District 3; Ann Sauers, District 3; Brian Stevens, District 3; Jim Strickland, District 3; William “Dee” Dill, District 4, Tom Seale, District 4; Ouida Mayfield, District 5; and Phillip Willis, District 5.

City council candidates not in attendance were: Vickie McNeal Mizzell, District 2 and Stoney Gleen, District 5.