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Hartselle faces old and new challenges in 2007
Mayor’s wish list includes Foote Road repair and sewer expansion near interstate

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com?· 340-2469

HARTSELLE — A year ago, Mayor Dwight Tankersley was up to his knees in garbage.

With $1.25 million invested in garbage trucks and trash cans, he was finalizing plans for Hartselle to start collecting its household garbage.

The transition was smooth.

A new year is almost here and the council is facing some of the biggest challenges in the city’s history. Some are old, like finding ways to extend the landfill’s life and new development at the city’s two Interstate 65 interchanges.

Others, like getting sewer to city-owned property near Alabama 36 and I-65 and refurbishing Foote Road, are new and come with monumental price tags.

It could cost Hartselle between $250,000 and $650,000 to repair Foote Road and as much as $600,000 to run sewer under I-65.

All of this money would have to come from the city’s reserve because the council included no capital improvement funds in the 2006-07 budget.

“Providing the city’s needs with our limited resources is always our biggest challenge,” Tankersley said.

The 5-mill property tax homeowners pay to the council in Hartselle is the lowest in the state.

Hartselle electors will vote on a property tax increase in 2007, but the funds are not for council coffers.

School construction

The school system is seeking a 12.5-mill increase to help construct a new Hartselle High with an estimated cost of between $25 million and $30 million.

The proposed hike would be the largest in a city that has historically opposed property tax increases. Voters overwhelmingly rejected new taxes for schools in 1990 and 2004.

“This is a major challenge, but it’s the school system’s challenge,” Tankersley said. “This is their project, and should be, because they are much more able to answer questions about why they need the new high school.”

Economic growth

The mayor said he’s going to try to grow the city’s budget through economic development rather than new taxes.

“If we’re going to provide for the needs in the city we’re going to need new economic development,” Tankersley said.

Mayors before him have said the same thing. But, economic growth here has trailed city needs.

A Captain D’s is slated to open on U.S. 31 in the new year, the first new fast-food restaurant in Hartselle since Quizno’s opened about five years ago.

This restaurant alone, however, will not generate enough additional revenue to fund Hartselle’s capital needs.

Setting priorities

The council will prioritize its capital needs list Jan. 8. The three most talked about projects — a new fire truck, I-65 sewer and Foote Road — could cost as much as $1.5 million. Tankersley wants to put Foote Road on the top of the list because Morgan County Commissioner Ken Livingston has agreed to help by providing in-kind labor.

“We couldn’t do this without help from the county and cooperation from the landowners,” the mayor said.

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