Capital improvements total $22.5 million, include beach parking & streetscapes at beach
By John Mullen
Gulf Shores passed its budget for 2019 at the Nov. 26 council meeting and it projects more than $70.5 million in the overall budget for revenues with expenses set at $70.2 million.
In the General Fund budget for 2019 – the main operating budget for city services – comes in at $43.5 million for revenues with $42.8 million in expenses.
“We have a constantly improving, dynamic city budget,” Finance Director Cindy King told the council during a Nov. 19 work session. “We continue to hone in and focus on the Vision 2025 core values. The bulk of those are directed at continuing to improve transportation, education, health care and ensuring the city’s beaches are safe and inviting.”
Also, during the meeting, the council accepted a bid for a new fishing pier and walkways at Little Lagoon Park on West Beach Boulevard (See story on page 46).
King said the budget includes several capital improvement projects and the hiring of 10 new full-time employees and one part-timer. The bulk of those are six for the fire department after the addition of station earlier this year.
“The positions are one police officer, six firefighter-EMTs – those are funded with the SAFER grant and they’ve already been approved by the council,” King said. “One Director of Community and Planning Development, one building and environmental inspector 1 and one traffic technician.”
The grant is from the Department of Homeland Security and stands Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER). During the three years of the grant, the city will provide 25 percent of the cost to hire six firemen the first two years and 65 percent in the third year. After the third year, the city completely takes over the pay and benefits for the new firemen. The total cost to the city will be about $394,500 and the federal share will be about $640,000.
“Fire and rescue, we’re seeing more and more increase in calls coming out of Station 4 which is the Oyster Bay station,” City Administrator Steve Griffin said. The council voted to buy the station from the Oyster Bay Volunteer Fire Department in October for about $190,000.
Griffin said the new planning department position is needed to help marshal making and updating future plans and improvements in the city.
“Planning and zoning when we adopted our Vision plan in 2014 and have done two-year updates to the strategic plan and added a land-use plan,” Griffin said. “We just finished the land-use plan and we’re in the process of doing the transportation plan. We wanted to pull all those plans together and have a full-time person to do that work and basically take on the responsibility of long-range planning, updates to our zoning ordinances and community redevelopment opportunities down at the beach area and in the Waterway district.”
Capital improvements for the city in the 2019 budget total $22.5 million. Some of the highlights of those are $800,000 for street resurfacing, $15,000 for the dog park expansion, $1.4 million for Business and Aviation Park development, $500,000 for the Fort Morgan Trail phase three, Coastal Gateway Boulevard improvements of $6.6 million, walking district parking and streetscapes for $2.7 million and Gulf Place phase three $2.6 million.
“The 2019 budget also includes 2 percent for a wage index assessment and merit increases of 1.5 percent for above average to 2.5 percent for the highest performers based on their annual performance reviews,” King said.
King said the city has been working for years to build up a reserve and has nearly $30 million which is 70 percent of the General Fund budget.
“That’s unheard of, really,” Mayor Robert Craft said. “Orange Beach is like us and they have the opportunity to do something similar but most cities have nowhere close to that. A lot of cities don’t have the exposure we have to natural occurrences and events that can cause us to need that money.”
King also announced the Finance Department has received more awards for its budget process.
“The city has won for the past eight years since 2011 the distinguished budget presentation award from the Government Finance Officers Association or the GFOA,” King said. “The city has worked very hard to prepare the budget book and each year we go back and look over what the GFOA has recommended and the departments have done a great job of linking their departments’ goals and outcomes to the council’s Vision 2025 key strategies and priorities.”
The council adopted the Vision 2025 Plan for Sustainability in 2014 and sets out goals for the city in the areas of better health care, education, Waterway Village District, Gulf State Park Lodge restoration and improvements in the Gulf Beach District.
Also, during the meeting, the council:
• Issued public assembly permits for the Zydeco Crawfish Festival in the Waterway Village District and the associated 5K and one-mile runs which will kick off at 8 a.m. This year’s event is set for April 20.
• Issued a public assembly for the Bloody Mary 5K run at Tacky Jacks on Aug. 31, also in the Waterway Village District and same course as the Zydeco race.
• Passed an ordinance giving a nonexclusive franchise to mobile containers company Bin There Dump That to provide collection and disposal of construction and demolition debris in the City.
Pictured: Gulf Shores City Council approved a public assembly permit for the Zydeco Crawfish Festival in the Waterway Village District and the associated 5K Run on April 20, 2019.