The city of Bessemer has approved its 2020 Transportation Plan.
The plan was adopted by the Bessemer City Council on Tuesday, August 20. It was prepared by STRADA Professional Services and the EEFS Company, P.C.
The plan addresses road projects city leaders deem as important to economic growth and safety and that are eligible for state funding.
The Alabama Rebuild Act, passed earlier this year by the Alabama Legislature, increases the state’s gas tax for the first time since the 1990s. Beginning September 1, drivers will pay an extra six cents at the pump, followed by increases of 2 cents in October of both 2020 and 2021.
As part of the Act, the state will implement the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program II, or ATRIP-II. The Alabama Department of Transportation will make available between $30 million and $50 million a year in grant funding for designated road projects in counties and cities throughout the state. The maximum award for a county or municipality is $2 million.
Jurisdictions are required to adopt a Transportation Plan by August 30 in order to be eligible for the grant funding. The grant funding will be done on a competitive basis and will be awarded by an ATRIP-II committee
based on factors such as economic growth and safety.
The city of Bessemer continues to operate with strong financial management as evidenced by another successful audit, city officials were told earlier this week.
The audit, which covers the period from Oct. 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, was completed by the firm of Kellum, Wilson and Associates, P.C. The audit was presented to Mayor Kenneth Gulley and members of the City Council during the July 9, 2019 Planning Session.
“The city is healthy financially and that comes from good financial management,” said CPA Lori Kes, the City’s external auditor.
Kes noted that city’s general fund revenue increased by 11.6 percent compared to FY17. Tax revenue increased by 9.1 percent, exceeding expectations. Kes further noted, that there were significant improvements in the city’s sales tax collection and attributed a portion of this increase to the city’s participation in the state of Alabama’s Simplified Sellers Use Tax. This tax allows online sellers to collect and remit a flat fee for sales made online.
Overall, the city’s actual revenues exceeded budgeted revenues for the year. City expenditures decreased 1 percent during the same time period, the audit shows.
Mayor Gulley praised the work of Finance Director/Treasurer Kela Pryor, CPA and staff for their roles in maintaining the city’s strong financial status.
“The city of Bessemer continues to operate under good financial management”, city officials were told earlier this week in a presentation of the most recent audit.
The city’s Finance Department is responsible for safeguarding the city’s finances. It oversees treasury management, accounts payable, purchasing, revenue collection, debt management, budgeting, payroll and human resources and internal auditing. In addition, the finance department is responsible for grant management, contract compliance, and the establishment and implementation of internal controls policy and procedure.
Each year the city of Bessemer provides its completed audit report on-line. To read the audit report, click City of Bessemer Financial Statement 2018.
The $750,000 project is being funded by the combination of a grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and a loan from Cadence Bank. Garver Inc. is providing project management and design, while Wayne Davis Construction will serve as the general contractor.
The project will include 10 individual T-hangars with large opening doors to accommodate Cirrus aircraft. Construction of the hangers is expected to be completed by December, said Tim Wasyluka, Airport manager.
City officials hailed the groundbreaking as another milestone in the city’s economic development efforts. The Bessemer Municipal Airport is a public-use airport and is categorized as a reliever airport for the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Several companies and private jets currently lease or own hangars at the airport.
Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley said the airport is becoming an important piece of the city’s industry recruitment efforts. In past years, city and airport officials have been able to market the airport and its location in the region to prospective companies such as Steyr Arms USA.
The hangar project will only aid those efforts, city officials said.
“We want the airport to grow and this is the first step in growing it,” said Bessemer councilwoman Donna Thigpen, who represents the city on the authority’s board.
Construction of the hangars is the latest in a series of recent upgrades at the facility. In June, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the Bessemer Airport is in line to receive $2,277,393 to rehabilitate the airport’s runway and runway lighting.
Last fall, Birmingham-based Sanders Capital Partners announced that it had acquired three corporate hangars at the Bessemer Airport for $1.3 million. Jackson Stewart, general counsel for Sanders Capital Partners, said at the time that Bessemer is playing an “increasingly significant” role in the aviation mix in the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa markets.
Jefferson County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens, a pilot himself, said much of the major work at the airport was done prior to national events such as 9/11 and the Great Recession. Those events slowed progress at the airport. Stephens said he hopes the city, county and state can continue working together to grow the airport.
“It’s taken us a long time to kickstart this economic engine for Bessemer and western Jefferson County,” Stephens said.
Mayor Kenneth Gulley highlighted economic growth, infrastructure improvements and crime reduction during the 2019 State of the City Address, delivered Monday, January 28, 2019 at the Bessemer Civic Center. Gulley said the city overall is a strong, positive position moving forward, highlighted by the announcement last year that Amazon plans on building is first-ever distribution center in Alabama in the Marvel City. The $325 million investment by Amazon in Bessemer is expected to create some 3,000 jobs and spur other investments in the city. “This facility is the largest single investment in the city of Bessemer’s history,” he said. “It puts us on a glorious path and reverses the economic turmoil left in our city by the closing of Pullman Standard in the mid-80s.” Gulley said the city’s overall business climate is strong. New stores and restaurants are opening in parts of the city. City revenues continue to climb, the Mayor said, noting that the city’s budget has increased by 53 percent since 2010. “We have managed revenues responsibly and have been good stewards of your taxpayer dollars,” he said. “We are a city that is not in the red, but in the black. Our annual audit has come back strong each year.” On the housing front, new home construction continues to take place in subdivisions such as Cedar Creek and Lake Cyrus. The Mayor also highlighted the burgeoning partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Birmingham that resulted in the construction of 15 new houses during a Homebuilders Blitz in October. In terms of infrastructure, the city was able to complete resurfacing projects along Fourth Avenue and Dartmouth Avenue this past year by using a mix of federal, state and local funds. Local gas tax funds were used to do residential paving projects in several areas of the city, including along Alice Street, Hickory Road and Cedar Hill Drive. “We will continue to aggressively work to secure funds to pave streets in our communities,” the Mayor said. The city also cut the ribbon on the first phase of the Bessemer Rail-Trail in spring of 2018. Construction on subsequent phases of the trail is expected to start this year. In addition, the city is building its first-ever storm shelter at the Police Department’s Emergency Operations Center on Ninth Avenue. Gulley said he plans to work with the City Councilto identify funding to build additional shelters in the city. On the public safety front, Gulley said the city’s crime rate dropped for a seventh consecutive year. He said the police department will continue to adopt prevention strategies to steer residents, particularly youth, away from crime. “Our police department will continue with our city-wide programs aimed at engaging our youth concerning conflict resolution,” he said. “I am appealing to our faith-based community, non-profit organizations, schools and parents to assist me in this battle against violence in our city.” Gulley concluded by challenging residents to take a more active hand in moving Bessemer forward. Overall, Gulley said the city’s future is trending brightly. “As we prepare to celebrate the city of Bessemer’s 132nd birthday, I can say confidently that the state of our city is very positive,” he said. “We know there is still much work to be done in many areas, but the seeds of progress have been sown over the past eight years. And now we are starting to reap the harvest.”