Foley mayor reveals “Vision for the Future” of growing city

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 10/21/21

FOLEY - There are big things in the works for the city of Foley. Mayor Ralph Hellmich presented the “State of the City” on Tuesday, Oct. 19 during a South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce …

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Foley mayor reveals “Vision for the Future” of growing city

Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich with South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce board representatives and students and staff from South Baldwin Christian Academy.
Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich with South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce board representatives and students and staff from South Baldwin Christian Academy.
Photo by Jessica Vaughn
Posted

FOLEY - There are big things in the works for the city of Foley. Mayor Ralph Hellmich presented the “State of the City” on Tuesday, Oct. 19 during a South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce Leadership Series, where he gave a sneak peak into the “vision for the future” for the rapidly growing city.

“I think our city is poised to handle this growth, and I think we’re poised to move forward and handle things the way people want it, the quality of life, the infrastructure, all of that,” said Hellmich. “It takes money and it takes cooperation and everything, so we talk all the time. We have ideas on how to move forward, but we’re going to ask for help from our citizens on some of these visions.”

Parks

Hellmich said the city is planning to host community development meetings in the near future concerning the modernization of city parks. Hellmich said plans for the public parks include ADA equipment, modern playground equipment, LED lighting and new facilities. Current plans include the addition of pickleball courts, an ADA playground and a bathroom building for the tennis courts. A public meeting will be announced at a future date where citizens can attend and give their opinions on what they would like to see in each city park.

“We have not done a modernization of our public parks since I’ve been here,” said Hellmich. “Our folks do a great job maintaining what we have and we add things from time to time, but we need to look at every one of our parks and we need to modernize them.”

Along with the modernization of city public parks, Hellmich says plans are underway to replace the city’s public swimming pool with an indoor aquatics center. The current plan is to build the aquatics center at the location of the existing pool with the possible inclusion of a splash pad beside the facility. The facility will potentially have sides that can be lowered or raised depending on weather and time of year, offering year-round use of the aquatics center.

“Right now all of our folks that are in organized sports here in Foley go to Gulf Shores to swim for things, and we shouldn’t be doing that in our city,” Hellmich said. “We’re to the point now where we need a modern aquatics center.”

Public Library

A major announcement that recently came with the approval of the FY21/22 budget is the construction of a brand-new public library. The current library is 20,000 square feet after an expansion was completed in 2006. Hellmich said the library has been at capacity for nearly three years, and after discussions it was determined more than a further expansion was needed.

The proposed site of the new library is at the empty lot on the east side of the Foley Dog Park. The Foley Council voted at the October meeting to move forward to look at the site and determine if it would be suitable for building.

“The vision is that we build a three-story library, approximately 40,000 square feet, that will meet the needs of Foley for the next 40 years,” Hellmich said. “It would be a modern library, with meeting spaces on the bottom and modern tools that meet the needs of our citizens. It’s nationally recognized as a gold standard library; we have a fantastic resource so we want to position this resource to serve our citizens.”

The approximate cost of the new facility is $8 million. The FY21/22 budget includes obtaining renderings and designs for the site, with hopes to begin construction during FY22/23 and to have the site completed during FY23/24. The current site of the library would be repurposed to accommodate the growing city staff.

Public Works Building

The current Public Works building was constructed in 1979, when, according to Hellmich, it had plenty of room. Now, he says the site is bursting at the seams, and future plans include the construction of a brand-new Public Works building on 13-acres located on North Poplar and Section Streets. The new site would also be home to the city’s engineering department.

“Foley has recently bought that piece of property, we’re signing the documents on it shortly,” said Hellmich. “That’s a need for our future as we add more people and we add more garbage cans and continue to serve our citizens, we need the space and that’s why we’re going to move to a new location.”

The projected cost of the project is $7 million. As with the library project, the funds to begin this project were included in the FY21/22 budget. Hellmich said the hope is to begin construction by the fall of 2022.

“So those are the kinds of things we’re going to do,” said Hellmich. “I think that we’re doing great here in Foley, and we do have a vision for the future. It doesn’t just include these things, there are other things we’ll work on as well.”

Other major projects include expansions and equipment upgrades to both the city’s police department and fire department, infrastructure improvements and road projects, and drainage improvement projects. You can view the entire State of the City slide presentation at https://cityoffoley.org/mayor.