County mayors give updates at Greater Shelby Chamber luncheon

Mayors from around the county congregated at the Pelham Civic Complex March 31 as part of the Greater Shelby Chamber of Commerce annual Mayor’s Luncheon.

The event, which was sponsored by the Shelby County Reporter and Carr and Associates, featured every mayor in the county expect Vincent Mayor Ray McAllister, who was ill.

The mayors mixed in jokes and updates about their cities as more than 200 people gathered for the event.

Among the topics were traffic woes on U.S. 280, the economy and upcoming events in each city.

Indian Springs Mayor Steve Zerkis was the first to speak and the joked about the small North Shelby town’s two main attractions: its disappearing lake and the on-going road construction on Alabama 119.

“About 20,000 people drive on that road each day to come take a look at that thing,” he said.

Westover Mayor Mark McLaughlin was next and he said the town that lies between Chelsea and Harpersville already has 1,000 homes being built, in addition to plans for the 6,200-acre, 20,000-home Pine Mountain Reserve.

While McLaughlin did make jokes about the traffic problems on U.S. 280, he also said it was a serious problem that needs a solution.

Calera Mayor Jon Graham, who was mayor-elect at last year’s luncheon, said his city was moving forward with many projects despite the slumping economy, including a new Publix scheduled to open in three weeks and a 400 percent increase in home permits issued this year compared to this time last year and progress being made on a truck bypass.

“We’re not participating in this recession,” Graham said.

Graham also announced plans for a 50-acre sports complex that will be home to football, soccer, baseball and softball fields.

“By being in the center of the state, we plan to host a lot of events there,” Graham said.

Hoover City Council member Gene Smith filled in for Mayor Tony Petelos, and Smith jokingly said Petelos was unable to attend because he was busy modeling Speedo beachwear.

Smith said many things are going on in Hoover, including the May 2 Celebrate Hoover festival and impending announcement set to be released April 6.

“Some people like to say Hoover’s happening; I like to say Hoover’s busy,” Smith said.

Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven gave an update of his wife, June, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

“She’s doing well, but I have to slow her down because she’s a goer,” Niven said.

Although the treatments have decreased June’s energy, Niven said she still plans to play the organ at church each Sunday.

Niven also announced that Tree Top Family Adventure will be opening soon, and the 18,000-square foot complex will include a go-cart track, bowling alley, laser tag, arcade games and more.

But while Niven said he was excited about the progress the city is making, he also said something must be done to address the situation on U.S. 280.

Niven said the Chelsea City Council will approve a resolution at the next meeting in favor of elevated lanes.

“If we don’t do something now, our grandkids will still be talking about the traffic on (U.S.) 280,” Niven said.

Montevallo Mayor Ben McCrory announced the city overachieved sales tax revenue last year, resulting in a $200,000 surplus thanks to business additions such as Main Street Tavern and Jack’s.

“That was the best opening for a Jack’s in the company’s 44-year history,” McCrory said. “We’re very fortunate, especially in these tough economic times.”

Alabaster Mayor David Frings said his city has seen the economic progress slow compared to past years.

“We aren’t putting down large shopping centers like we did a few years,” Frings said. “Things are a little slower now.”

Frings did say several new businesses have joined the Promenade and business parks, including Fresenius and Panera Bread.

Frings also said the city’s new Senior Center should be opening in July

Harpersville Mayor Theo Perkins spoke next and joked about the city’s reputation.

“I’m not talking about people jumping out of airplanes, speeding tickets … or annexing Hoover or Helena,” he said as the crowd erupted in laughter.

But Perkins also had some somber news as he announced longtime resident Earl Baker, 102, passed away in the morning March 31.

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe spoke next and joked about the city’s population and extensive list of parade and events.

“Columbiana is our home away from home … for 99 percent of our county’s inmates,” Lowe joked in reference to the city being home to the Shelby County Jail.

Helena Mayor Sonny Penhale followed Lowe and announced the city is nearing completion of its new bypass.

“That’s really going to help us out on traffic,” Penhale said.

And with Helena’s population expanded each year, Penhale said the city must make it a priority to build more youth ball fields.

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy was the last to speak, and Murphy announced several new projects including a bike trail at Oak Mountain State Park, a special-needs baseball league, the hiring of city chefs, sidewalks on Alabama 119 and the array of events being held at the Pelham Civic Complex.

While Murphy did say sales tax revenues are down from previous years, he said 48 new businesses have opened in the city since October.

Murphy closed the luncheon by inviting everyone to come to a mortgage-burning ceremony April 11 at 2 p.m. at the Civic Complex to help celebrate paying off the mortgage of the Davis family home. The city paid off the home of Paula Davis, whose husband, Philip, was killed in the line of duty as a Pelham Police officer.