Shelby County mayors share updates at State of Our Communities luncheon

Published 10:04 am Thursday, February 29, 2024

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Mayors and local government officials from every corner of Shelby County gathered at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena for the State of Our Communities luncheon on Wednesday, Feb. 28. In front of their fellow public servants, the mayors of each city addressed their peers, providing updates on their city’s accomplishments and challenges.



The first mayor to present was Larry Riggins of Westover. According to Riggins, Westover’s greatest opportunity for growth is also its biggest challenge—developing the U.S. Highway 280 and County Road 55 corridors. Despitethe difficulties the city has encountered, Riggins is hopeful that these changes will help the city’s economic development.

“We’ve got a huge opportunity in Westover to attract new businesses and recruit all types of businesses (such as) banks, grocery stores, convenience stores and hardware.” Riggins said. “We have recently done an overlay change on our 280 overlay that we think is going to be good for the future.”

This overlay change developed new parcels of land along U.S. Highway 280 to be used as retail space. To accommodate for this potential growth, the city of Westover has arranged for an updated traffic study with the Regional Planning Commission and is currently working on a new comprehensive plan.



As the representative for the small town nestled along the county line, Mayor Deborah Hudson informed the luncheon that the town of Wilton received a Shelby County Parks and Recreation grant to build a new pavilion.

Celebrating its 106th anniversary this April, the Wilton Town Council is now fully staffed and council members all have matching T-shirts, emblazoned with the phrase “Team Wilton.”

Hudson proudly announced that the town of Wilton is “a work in progress,” but growing every day.

“We are proud of where we are located,” Hudson said. “We have continued to be a work in progress, but we’re positive. We are making an impact.”



Pelham Mayor Gary Waters began his update by officially welcoming everyone in attendance to the Pelham Civic Center and Ice Arena.

“Welcome to Pelham, the home of the Birmingham Bulls, where the city of Birmingham supports us in name only,” Waters said.

After giving everyone step-by-step instructions for how to purchase postseason Bulls tickets, Waters pivoted to discussing one of Pelham’s accomplishments of the year. The Federal Railroad Administration granted Pelham a $51 million grant to build a flyover bridge going up I-65 to County Road 52 West.

“My city manager, Gretchen DiFante, and her staff had a little over two weeks to put together this comprehensive grant that ended up being the largest grant given by the Federal Railroad Administration last year.” Waters said.

When it came to his concerns about Pelham, Waters had one topic in mind—next year’s municipal elections. He offered advice to the residents of Pelham who might be wondering what to look for in a candidate.

“What I’m worried about next year is we’re coming up on municipal elections,” Waters said. “Folks, you need to look for the folks that will pour themselves into your community and people that actually have something to lose by taking office, not just gaining.”



Mayor Rusty Nix shared that Montevallo received a $2.1 million grant to improve Moores Crossroads, which is near Highway 119 and County Road 22. The money will be used to spruce up the area, providing new turn lanes and streetlights.

Montevallo was actually rejected for the same grant last year. But after some deliberation, they decided to change tactics and reapply. The City Council gathered support from the University of Montevallo, Shelby County and a few state representatives. Together, proponents of the grant proposal proved that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

“We all wrote letters,” Nix said. “And lo and behold, we got the grant.”

In addition to that grant, Nix shared that Montevallo is currently searching for a partner to fill a 22-acre commercial development on the horizon.

“We’ve got the potential of a major retail chain coming,” Nix said. “I can’t really elaborate on what it is. But there’s going to be a lot of businesses coming with it.”

According to Nix, the development is projected to employ between 250-275 people and generate $2 million in sales tax revenue for the city of Montevallo.



While Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato was unable to attend the State of the Community luncheon, City Administrator Ken Grimes presented on his behalf. Grimes started the proceedings by thanking all of the elected officials gathered.

“Just keep that in mind that every bit of what these communities are doing matters to the ultimate success of Shelby County, and we thank you everyone for what you do,” Grimes said.

Similar to other Shelby County municipalities, Grimes claimed that their biggest challenge this past year was infrastructure and their biggest accomplishment was an upcoming development.

“We’re blessed with our big prize for Hoover, the Riverwalk project,” Grimes said.

Hoover’s Healthcare Authority, in partnership with the healthcare resource division of Corporate Realty, has been working to convert a former Regions Bank campus into an ambulatory surgery center. The Riverwalk project would feature two buildings, totaling 450,000 square feet on a 90-acre campus.

Grimes shared that the projected impact of the ambulatory service center will result in $2.5 billion in the next 20 years and is estimated to create more than 1,000 jobs.



Mayor Theangelo Perkins of Harpersville took the stand to share the progress his city has made in the past year, including scoring funding to improve the existing water systems through an EPA Safe Water Drinking Grant and a low interest loan, upgrading the municipal park and working to start construction on up to 1,300 new homes.

In addition, Perkins was proud to announce progress on Harpersville’s town center plan.

“Two and a half years ago, we completed a new comprehensive plan that I’m proud of, and one of the goals set in that plan was to develop a town center,” Perkins said. “Since then, we have developed the town center plan and recently adopted an overlay district in accordance with the plan. Harpersville is building a town center, which includes a main street.”

Established in 1815, Harpersville is one of the oldest communities in Shelby County. Perkins encouraged those interested in learning more about the history of Harpersville to contact City Hall.



During his presentation, Columbiana Mayor David Mitchell premiered a video presentation, expounding on the offerings of the city and highlighting the versatility of Columbiana’s Main Street. Mitchell used this background to introduce the city and present fun facts about Columbiana.

One of these fun facts was that Columbiana has 32 total miles of roads under its jurisdiction, and that the city has repaved approximately 34 percent of those roads in the past couple years.

“We’re on track to get most of our roads resurfaced,” Mitchell said. “It’s really a 12-year plan to get through all of them.”

Continuing with his number theme, Mitchell shared that the last three years have seen an 11 percent increase in building permits issued, a 72 percent increase in business license revenue and a 33.7 percent increase in sales tax revenue.

With a $5.5 million sewage treatment plant project, a $1 million storm drain project and a new public works facility on the horizon, Mitchell is optimistic about the future of Columbiana.

“All in all, I think the future is pretty bright,” Mitchell said.



Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer began his report discussing the challenges currently facing Chelsea’s housing market, but despite this, the City Council was still able to approve 175 building permits in 2023.

“There are some signs of slowing in our housing market,” Picklesimer said. “It is clear that this is not a matter of Chelsea losing its luster or people not wanting to come, it’s a matter of affordability.”

Picklesimer also emphasized that education is a top priority for Chelsea. The City Council has approved $130,000 to be divided between the four schools in Chelsea. In addition, the city is investing $4.2 million for the construction of a new gym at Chelsea Park Elementary.

“We continue to focus on ways to partner with the Board of Education to improve facilities for our four schools,” Picklesimer said. “Education is very important to our city.”

Chelsea has also approved a partnership with the Board of Education to build a 1,700 seat grandstand press box at the high school, which will be open this fall.

“We’ve approved over $9 million of projects at our schools in our city and we’re very, very happy about that,” Picklesimer said.



Calera Mayor Jon Graham announced that a site in Calera has been chosen as one of the first projects that 58 INC, Shelby County’s economic development corporation, has selected to pursue with their recently acquired funding from Alabama’s Site Evaluation and Economic Development Strategy (SEEDS) Act Grant.

“We’re excited to be a part of this opportunity SEEDS funding will give us,” Graham said. “This grant will help us continue to develop high quality industrial sites and recurring skilled, high paying jobs to the city of Calera.”

According to Graham, the recent growth in Calera led to the city receiving a Federal Railroad Administration grant commitment to build a flyover over the railroad and Highway 25.

In addition, Graham commended his fellow councilmembers and Calera Main Street partners for all of their progress on Main Street.

“My hope is through the cooperation, as each of us have mentioned, that we will continue to grow this county together,” Graham said.



For Alabaster, Mayor Scott Brakefield took a moment to celebrate projects that have recently been finished or are awaiting final touches. In addition to enjoying their new police department, the city of Alabaster has opened Patriots Park.

Patriots Park is the result of the Alabaster Parks and Recreation’s feasibility study that identified a prime area of land on the north end of town. On the opposite side of town, Veterans Park is undergoing a renovation to include five new turf baseball fields, eight pickleball courts and a renovation of the Veterans Memorial area and parking lot.

Beyond parks, Brakefield shared his hopes for developing a downtown area featuring the new police department, a new recreation center and a new library.

“We hope in 2024 we’ll be able to announce large scale residential developments as well as large scale commercial developments in Alabaster, so stay tuned,” Brakefield said.