Shelby County holds 2023 State of Our Communities Luncheon

Published 2:53 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

By LIZZIE BOWEN | Staff Writer

PELHAM– The 2023 State of our Communities luncheon was held at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena with presentations given by the mayors of Shelby County on what can be expected within the county in the upcoming year.

Alabaster Mayor Scott Brakefield, elected in 2020, spoke first in the presentation and provided updates on what can be expected in Alabaster in the coming year.

In 2022, the city of Alabaster broke ground on Patriots Park as well as took place in a park’s needs assessment in 2019.

“We purchased some property from Kingwood Church and were able to break ground in 2022,” Brakefield said. “That should open within the next month or month-and-a-half.”

Brakefield shared that construction has begun on Highway 119 as part of the first phase of expansion for the widening project as well as progress on Highway 31 improvements.

“I want to thank the members of our community and city who are responsible for day-to-day operations,” Brakefield said. “I can’t thank them enough.”

New pavilions and restrooms are now available at Veterans Park in Alabaster as part of a partnership with the county.

“Veterans Park was an expansion last year where we brought additional parking and expansion of our trails,” Brakefield said. “We also are working with the county to begin some construction on county roads and intersections within our city. “

Mayor Jon Graham was present representing the city of Calera offered updates on what’s to come for the city.

“Life is good in Calera,” Graham said. “We are continuing to grow with our residential sales and new home construction permits are up by 133 this year. Our market values seem to be holding our own.”

Graham said the city hopes to see I-65 widened from Alabaster to the Highway 31 exit in Calera in the near future.

New businesses have been opened in Calera, and the city is partaking in downtown revitalization efforts.

“We have purchased different pieces of real estate downtown,” Graham said. “We have a few more pieces to go. Be on the lookout for what’s going on in downtown Calera. We have a new Dynamic Discs downtown.”

Calera has two eighteen-hole disc golf courses and Graham said this is a great way to get the community out and on their feet.

Roughly $29 million has been allocated for sewer and water infrastructure improvements and expansions.

“That’s a big deal when you’re trying to grow your city,” Graham said. “That is big in the future of what we have to offer in Calera.”

Chelsea’s Mayor Tony Picklesimer gave updates on what is to be expected within the city in the future.

“We are seeing a slight slowing in the housing market in our city,” Picklesimer said. “This is reflected more in the resale market than it is with new home construction. The days-on-the-market numbers are slightly inching up. We did have 213 new homes permitted in 2022.”

Picklesimer said upon speaking to a local realtor, the slowing is due to the interest rates and with higher interest rates, families aren’t able to afford as nice of a home as they would have been able to afford two years ago.

“On the commercial side we have seen continued activity and growth,” Picklesimer said. “We just recently sold an existing building to HGC Outdoors.”

Chelsea’s first hotel is under construction as well as a new daycare and new preschool.

“Education and partnership with our schools continues to be a top priority of this administration,” Picklesimer said. “We continue to focus on ways to partner with the Shelby County Board of Education to improve the facilities in the four schools that serve our city. In our 2022-2023 general fund budget, we approved $130,000 to be divided equally among those schools.”

A new gymnasium was approved for Chelsea Park Elementary School for a cost of $4.2 million.

Columbiana Mayor David Mitchell spoke on the state of the city and provided updates on current projects.

Mitchell said storm water mitigation is a priority for Columbiana and an ARPA grant will go towards navigating areas of high storm water.

“It helps us identify through a lot of sophisticated modeling where our problems are at and what we need to do to resolve those problems,” Graham said. “We have some problems with our Waste Water Treatment plant and through ARPA we were able to get a combination grant and SRF loan to help us with a $5.25 million-dollar improvement to our Waster Water Treatment plan.”

Two additional sewer projects were completed in 2022, some funded by the city and others funded by CBDG grants.

Harpersville Mayor Theo Perkins provided an update on the state of the city and future projects.

“Harpersville is one of Shelby County’s oldest communities,” Perkins said. “Our slogan is ‘Rich past, bright future.’ We are the crossroads to family fun.”

Perkins said a year-and-a-half-ago a new comprehensive plan was posed to establish a town center.

“We don’t have a real town center,” Perkins said. “We have purchased property to build some streets and establish a town center.”

The plan was submitted to the American Planning Association and in November was awarded first place for “Cities and Towns under 50,000.”

Harpersville’s Municipal Park is being upgraded and the city is partnering with Shelby County for a grant to help with upgrades.

Helena Mayor Brian Puckett spoke on future expectations of Helena.

“Last year we focused on two major things— community and connectivity,” Puckett said. “Coming out of COVID, we knew we had to bring people back together. We feel we have done a great job with this. This year our focus has become, ‘Proud of our home.’ So, everything we are doing this year is intentional based on being proud of our community.”

The Helena Forward Project is a partnership with U.S. Steel, U.S. Department of Interior, Department of Labor and Helena. This project will enable Helena to build a new town center in the heart of Helena.

“This project of Helena Forward is an $86 million economic impact, something we have never seen before,” Puckett said.

Joe Tucker Park underwent renovations that were $1.4 million with construction being done on the ponds within the park.

Mayor Rusty Nix spoke on expectations for the city of Montevallo.

Nix said police cars and street sanitation vehicles have been purchased for the city of Montevallo and work has been done on storm drains.

“We have our sidewalk project on Highway 25,” Nix said. “If you’re familiar with Montevallo, that is going to connect to Lucky’s at (the) intersection of 25 and 119. That area there gets used a lot.”

Nix also said that a hotel is making its way to Montevallo, Nix said with all the parents of students at the university coming to visit and athletes staying in the Montevallo area for tournaments, this will be a good addition to the city.

“We are also in the process of pursuing a community center/rec Center,” Nix said. “It will be a $5-6 million facility. I think it will be a gamechanger for Montevallo’s youth program as well as senior citizens.”

City Manager Gretchen DiFante was present and spoke on behalf on the city of Pelham. DiFante said the biggest challenge of 2022 has been capital projects.

“We have 97 capital projects in our budget,” DiFante said. “We are currently active with 65 capital projects.”

Pelham City Hall has received renovations adding to a little over $4 million dollars. The city of Pelham applied for a federal grant to engage in a creek cleanup for Buck Creek.

Ballantrae Golf in Pelham had a record-breaking year with 41,451 rounds of golf played in 2022. This record has been held since 2012.

There was a 40 percent increase in team league participation in the Pelham Racquet Club. The tournament has grown in the past four years by 300 percent. The Birmingham Bulls have received record-breaking attendance numbers with four sold out games.

The Canopy Project will be operational and open by September. In Campus 124, Half Shell Oyster House was the fourth highest in sales out of the fourteen restaurants in the area.

Pelham partook in a citizen’s survey with results coming back in favor of community events, in which DiFante showed the Goat Yoga event soon to be held by the Pelham Parks and Recreation Department.

“We have 435 classes in our Parks and Recreations Department for people of all ages,” DiFante said.

Pickleball courts and outdoor pavilions are being planned to be constructed in the Pelham Senior Center this year.

“Membership growth in our senior center has increased 100 percent,” DiFante said.

DiFante also spoke on the council’s recent decision to vote in favor of bringing a Splash Pad to Pelham.

More information on Shelby County’s mayors, policies and procedures can be found at