FOLEY — Major projects for the upcoming year in Foley could cost $13 million more than the city expects to bring in, but the work is needed to keep up with the demands of growth, city officials …
FOLEY — Major projects for the upcoming year in Foley could cost $13 million more than the city expects to bring in, but the work is needed to keep up with the demands of growth, city officials said.
The Foley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday, Sept. 6, to approve the budget.
Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the costs will still leave the city with more than enough money in reserve funds.
"This budget is designed to address the concerns of the citizens about growth in our area," Hellmich said. "One of the things that we pledged when we were elected was to maintain our quality of life. We grew up around here. We want it to stay a nice place to live. We all know there are challenges that we deal with every day."
Mike Thompson, city administrator, said budget estimates are that the cost of the projects will be much more than what the city will receive in revenue.
"We talked about having funds coming in at about $61 million," Thompson said. "You look at our expenses, debt payments and capital projects and add all that up, you're talking about spending about $74 million. Anybody can see that we're going to be spending about $13 million from our General Fund money."
He said city officials try to match revenue and spending, but a number of projects are needed now, and Foley has enough money in reserve to use for some of that work.
"Whereas we typically try to reach a balanced budget, in this case, this is a time where we think we should spend some money and re-invest into our city," Thompson said. "That's why you see a budget where the revenues and expenses are not in balance."
Thompson said the biggest single project is building a new facility that will house the Public Works Department as well as sanitation and engineering. That project is expected to cost $12 million to $15 million.
The city also plans to build a new public library at a cost of about $12 million.
Another project is the widening and repaving of the Foley Beach Express to add safety margins on the sides of the road. The project is also expected to cost about $6.5 million.
Foley will add more than 500 acres to the Graham Creek Nature Preserve. The land acquisition will cost $6.5 million, Thompson said.
Other projects include extending Juniper Street, Wolf Creek restoration project, a safe room for first responders, pedestrian paths in the Mills community, improvements at the intersection of Alabama 59 and Baldwin County 12, improving the rose trail and Centennial Fountain and rebuilding the Kids Park, Thompson said.
The city will also take part in a partnership with the Baldwin County School System to upgrade two fields at Foley High School.
"The intent is for the high school and for the city to share those two fields," Thompson said. "We're going to improve the lighting over there and so forth and in return we're going to be able to use those fields for recreational league play."
Thompson said some of the projects will take longer to complete than one year and some of the costs will be part of budgets for the following year.
Hellmich said city employees did a good job preparing the budget.
"The staff has done an incredible job," Hellmich said. "I challenged them to come up with a budget that addressed what our citizens are telling all of us on this podium up here about growth. They want us to address growth and, by golly, that's what this budget's going to do."
The mayor said all the projects will have to be approved by the city council. He said that if the city's financial situation changes, some of the work can be postponed.
"Even though this budget is passed, these projects will come back to you during the year when we're ready to move forward," Hellmich told council members. "If the economy turns bad for whatever reason, no one can predict, like 2008 or whatever, we can shut down buying additional things and can weather the storm quite well."