Special to The Times
Bessemer Mayor Kenneth E. Gulley highlighted completion of promised municipal projects, drops in the city’s crime rate and a positive business climate in his 2017 State of the City Address on Monday, Jan. 30 at the Bessemer Civic Center.
Speaking to a packed room of some 300, Gulley encouraged the Bessemer City Council and city residents to continue the “spirit of cooperation” that has helped Bessemer make significant progress over the past six years.
Gulley said such cooperation has allowed the city to build a new Recreation Center, a new Clubhouse at the Frank House Municipal Golf Course and complete construction of a new Bessemer City Hall.
The Recreation Center, which opened in September 2016, is the first in the city’s history. It now boasts a membership of 2,800 and has programs designed for both youth and seniors.
“This project is something all residents of Bessemer, regardless of color or background, can enjoy,” Gulley said. “This recreation center is something this community can be proud to have achieved.”
The new Bessemer City Hall, located at the corner of 17th Street and Third Avenue North, will open later this month. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the facility is scheduled for Feb. 12 at 4 p.m.
The new Bessemer City Hall, Gulley said, is representative of a “a new Bessemer”. It will replace the current City Hall building at 1800 Third Avenue. It was built in 1938.
“This City Hall gives potential business and industry leaders a new gateway into our city,” Gulley said. ”It gives our employees a safe, healthy environment in which to work and it too is a symbol of what can happen when we all work together towards a common goal.”
The new $1 million Clubhouse at the Frank House Golf Course opened in October and replaces a Clubhouse destroyed during the April 2014 tornado in the city. In addition, the city opened a new Recycling Center at the corner of First Avenue North and 16th Street.
Among the other areas Gulley highlighted in the address:
- Major crimes in the city dropped 15 percent in Bessemer in 2016, bucking a national trend of rising crime. Gulley commended the Bessemer Police Department on its community outreach efforts in light of highly publicized incidents involving police last year.
- The city’s Fire Department became the first in Jefferson County and only the third in Alabama to attain a Class 1 ISO rating. The new rating will save on the insurance costs for homeowners and businesses in the city.
- The city is continuing to work with the Alabama Department of Transportation on projects to resurface Fourth and Dartmouth Avenues and improve traffic flow along McCalla Road and McAshan Drive. Gulley said the city replaced two bridge culverts in 2016, installed new traffic signals in downtown Bessemer and is working with the City Council on a paving project for 2017.
- The city’s Community and Economic Development Department has entered partnerships with the Alabama Asset Building Coalition and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Birmingham to increase homeownership opportunities in the city. In addition, the Bessemer Housing Authority is developing a plan to rehabilitate anywhere from 50 to 60 vacant houses for homeownership.
- Bessemer public works crews oversaw the cutting of some 800 vacant lots in the city in 2016 and Building Inspections oversaw the demolition of 66 condemned houses in 2016. Money has been set aside in the fiscal year 2017 budget to continue blight-fighting efforts.
Gulley spoke highly of the business climate in Bessemer, noting expansion projects at Milo’s Tea and Flex-N-Gate and increased attendance at Alabama Splash Adventure.
“These types of private investments show that our city can attract industry and jobs. Bessemer is truly open for business,” he said.
The city will continue to work on attracting new businesses into downtown Bessemer, Gulley said.
“While we have witnessed some investment in our downtown, we want to look at additional ways to revitalize downtown and possibly bring entertainment and retail dollars back into the heart of the city,” he said.