2022: Gulf Coast Media's year in review - Government

Officials addressed airports, roads, conservation; saw new lawmakers, water systems

By Allison Marlow
Managing Editor
Posted 12/30/22

As Baldwin County's population booms, so does the strain on its resources.Roads, medical providers, budgets even the coroner's office and city water lines saw double as 2022 turned into the year of …

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2022: Gulf Coast Media's year in review - Government

Officials addressed airports, roads, conservation; saw new lawmakers, water systems


As Baldwin County's population booms, so does the strain on its resources.

Roads, medical providers, budgets even the coroner's office and city water lines saw double as 2022 turned into the year of more in Baldwin County.

There were more cars on the road, more new residents, more toilets flushing into city sewer systems, more deaths being investigated.

Emergency management officials began working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency this year to redraw evacuation routes to move the county's more than 200,000 residents to safety. Members of the Baldwin County Commissioners drafted a strategic plan to address the growth.

In September, the commission also voted to approve a record-hitting budget for 2023: $240.9 million, a 32% increase since 2019. In that meeting Ron Cink, budget director and interim county administrator, said the jump was no surprise.

"All one needs to do is look around and see the number of people on the roads, the number of people at any of our facilities, the number of people at any of the events," he said.


Several cities began to see cracks in infrastructures, sometimes literally, that were built decades ago and intended for towns, not bustling cities.

In Fairhope, the city council authorized more than $15 million to upgrade sewage systems in October. Earlier this month, a study was presented that showed the city's water system also needed to be addressed. The city now has a well capacity of 11 million gallons a day. If the current population growth is sustained, that demand will grow to 13 to 16 million gallons per day by 2033.

In Spanish Fort, the city took over firefighting duties in the municipal jurisdiction on Aug. 1. Firefighters became city employees, and officials there have made plans for a new fire station next to city hall.

Officials announced a countywide recycling facility could be in operation by the end of 2023, saving thousands of tons of waste from landfills and relieving local agencies from having to haul materials out of state.

The county is developing plans for the 60,000-square-foot facility to be built at the Magnolia Landfill in Magnolia Springs.

During 2022, Orange Beach began several new projects including a new fire station, city beach infrastructure, a turnout lane at Orange Beach High School at $50,000 and a shooting range at $500,000. More projects, including pier repairs at Waterfront Park, a wildlife center, the East Canal Road multimodal path and West Canal multimodal path were also in the 2022 plan.


To help alleviate some of the summer traffic headed to Baldwin County's beaches, construction will begin in January of a third southbound lane on Alabama 59 between Foley and Gulf Shores.

The route will be open by 2024, and a pedestrian bridge will be built over the Intracoastal Waterway with plans approved by Gulf Shores City Council.

The Alabama Department of Transportation moved ahead with a plan to build a $2.6 billion bridge on Interstate-10 over the Mobile River and replace the Bayway. The move came after years of back-and-forth between residents in Mobile and Baldwin counties and state leaders as the two groups sparred over proposed fees to travel the expanse.

The current proposed toll structure is $2.50 or less for passenger vehicles and $18 or less for trucks, according to the ALDOT statement. An unlimited use option will be available for $40 per month.

Commuters who travel Alabama 181 from U.S. 90 in Daphne to U.S. 98 near Fish River should have a smoother ride in the new year. State officials said the work should be complete in the coming weeks.


In Foley, city officials voted to request a $1.94 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for improvements including a new terminal.

In Gulf Shores, larger tourism numbers have led to improvements and expansions at Gulf Shores International Airport. After the construction of a new air tower was completed earlier this year, a new commercial air terminal is scheduled to open by spring. Officials hope the move will help pave the way for commercial air service.

Across Mobile Bay, the highly anticipated new Mobile International Airport is expected to bring transportation options and services closer for much of Baldwin County when it opens in 2025.


The South Baldwin Regional Medical Center is expanding.

The system's main hospital in Foley began a $250 million construction project this year. Once the facility is completed, it will include a five-story medical center with 250,000 square feet of space, 10 new operating rooms, pre-operative and post-operative suites and an endoscopy center. A planned women's and children's center will fill the second floor. The center's free-standing emergency room in Gulf Shores, opened in 2021, was expected to take some of the traffic that the hospital sees. Officials said both facilities remained busier than anticipated though.

Officials said there were multiple days when the emergency room in Gulf Shores saw well over 120 patients a day, not relieving pressure on the main emergency room in Foley.

Hospitals are full, and so is the coroner's office. The number of coroner cases have almost doubled since 2010, with 353 cases in 2010 and 663 in 2021. In October, Baldwin County Coroner Brian Pierce told Baldwin County Commission that current trends mean that number will be nearly 1,000 by 2030.


The town of Loxley is no more.

In May 2022, the town officially became a city after experiencing the largest population growth by percentage of any municipality in Baldwin County.

From 2010 to 2020, Loxely's grew from 1,632 to 3,710 residents, an increase of 127.3%.


Several times during the year, officials addressed the need to slow the building spread happening across the county.

Foley officials placed a moratorium on new residential housing for two months while the city addressed changing code requirements. Daphne officials extended a moratorium on rezoning for multifamily development for another six months while city officials worked on a long-range plan for the municipality.

The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program gathered a host of the county's leaders to address the way growth and development are impacting local watersheds. Officials with the group said the increase in roofs, concrete and asphalt has stopped water from soaking into the ground. That is causing higher sediment loads to be dumped into local streams.

The average amount of sediment expected to be carried by a creek is about 64 tons a year, an official said.

Studies conducted for the Mobile Bay NEP found that Red Gully on the Eastern Shore is carrying more than 15,000 tons of sediment a year. Tatumville Gully is carrying 5,581 tons, Rock Creek is carrying 4,644 tons, and a Fly Creek tributary is carrying 1,636 tons.


While many parcels of land are being sold to developers, cities are also spending money on keeping Baldwin green.

Spanish Fort bought 144 acres of waterfront property on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta to be developed as a nature park and recreation area.

Spanish Fort City Council voted April 18 to buy the property, once intended for multi-family development, known as Cypress Point for more than $8.41 million. The city received a grant of $8.5 million through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, known as GOMESA, program.

In Fairhope, the city council voted to set deed restrictions on a 144-acre site known as The Triangle. The property will be developed as a park and green space.

In Orange Beach, Baldwin County's boat launch on the Intracoastal Waterway, built at a cost of more than $10 million, was dedicated in October. The Launch at ICW provides needed public access to coastal waters for residents and visitors, state and local officials said. The 47-acre site on the north bank of the waterway east of the Baldwin County Bridge Company toll bridge includes 1,700 feet of water frontage, six boat launches, a large parking lot as well as walking trails, bridges and fishing piers.


New roads, new houses and new workers all mean big businesses have been considering Baldwin County as an enticing place to expand.

In October, work began on a $2.5 billion aluminum plant for a company called Novelis that officials said will provide up to 1,000 jobs in Bay Minette.

The plant is being constructed at the Baldwin County Mega Site south of Interstate 65 and is the first aluminum rolling mill to be constructed in the United States in 40 years.


Approximately 10,000 voters in Baldwin County found themselves voting at a different location in 2022 after several precincts were split to alleviate the large number of voters assigned there.

With the decennial census comes redistricting, which means many voters may also have found themselves voting for a different representative after electoral boundaries were redrawn.


Baldwin County voters selected three women to serve in the Alabama House of Representatives and elected a new county commissioner in 2022.

In District 95, Republican Frances Holk Jones was elected to the seat held by Rep. Steve McMillan since 1980. McMillan died in April after announcing he would not run for another term representing the south Baldwin district.

In District 94, which stretched from Elberta to Robertsdale in central Baldwin, Jennifer Fidler was elected to the district formerly held by Rep. Joe Faust.

Fiddler defeated Faust, who had served since 2002, in the Republican primary.
In District 64, which also includes some of central Baldwin from Robertsdale to Loxley, as well as Bay Minette and Spanish Fort, Donna Givens was elected. The seat had been held by Rep. Harry Shiver since 2006. Shiver did not run for reelection.

Representatives in two other House seats representing Baldwin County, Republicans Matt Simpson in District 96 and Alan Baker in District 66, do not have general election opposition in their bids for reelection.

The two state Senate seats that represent Baldwin County also reelected incumbents who did not face opposition. Sen. Greg Albritton in District 22 and Sen. Chris Elliott in District 32 returned to office.

Matt McKenzie was elected to Baldwin County Commission, replacing Joe Davis, who did not run for re-election. The remaining three commissioners were re-elected or did not face opposition.

— Gulf Coast Media's Guy Busby contributed to this report