Commissioner Connie Hudson Presents the State of the County 2018
May 10, 2018
Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. It is my honor and privilege to represent the Mobile County Commission here today for our 2018 State of the County address. First, I'd like to recognize my commission colleagues. Please stand, Commissioners Merceria Ludgood and Jerry Carl.
Let me also take the opportunity to recognize officials from all of our Mobile County agencies represented here today. Please stand and remain standing as I call your name: Sheriff Sam Cochran, Revenue Commissioner Kim Hastie, License Commissioner Nick Matranga, Mobile County Treasurer Phil Benson, Probate Judge, Don Davis, and Juvenile Court Judge, Edmond Naman.
Also, on behalf of the Commission, I extend greetings to Mayor Stimpson who will next be sharing the State of the City addressâ€¦ and to the other Mayors and Councilmembers present from all of our municipalities within Mobile County and Tribal Chief Lebaron Byrd of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians. If you will, please all stand and be recognized. Thank you all so much for being here today.
Our overarching theme for this year's presentation is: Celebrating Our Past and Building For Our Future, and we do have a lot to celebrate here in Mobile Countyâ€¦ our history and culture, our people and diversity, our many accomplishments, our dedicated employees, our economic development success, and our very bright and prosperous future, just to name a few reasons.
As we soon commemorate the 200th anniversary of the statehood of Alabama, it's important to take a moment to reflect upon the leadership role that Mobile County, (at 205 years old) has played and continues to play in the growth and development of our state as well as our country.
Our leadership role as a port and a major center for import and export trade that provides more than 150,000 direct and indirect jobs; as a leader in shipbuilding and dry dock repair; as a leader in aircraft, steel and chemical manufacturing; as the state's nursery and greenhouse industry leader providing over 1,900 jobs generating an economic impact of $177 million per year, and Mobile County's unrivaled leadership role in Gulf waters commercial seafood production responsible for a whopping half-billion dollar annual economic impact for the state.
Mobile County is certainly a force to be recognized and celebrated for all of its contributionsâ€¦ past and present.
So what is the current State of Mobile County and what does the future hold?
To Begin With...
Mobile County is on solid financial footing which has earned an upgrade in our long-term credit rating from Moody's Investors Service. Noted was (and I quote) "our sizable and regionally important tax base, which will continue to experience commercial and industrial growth".
Mobile County's housing market is strong with average sales prices and demand continuing to increase,
Since 2017, sales tax revenue has increased throughout the County by 9.9% fueled by an improved economy and revenue generated by the Simplified Seller's Use Tax otherwise known as the "Amazon Tax" and 747 full-time and 1,400 part-time jobs were created while unemployment figures declined by 3.1% over the past year.
Supporting public safety remains a top priority for the county.
Because of the foresight and funding provided by the Mobile County Commission, with assistance from FEMA, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the City of Mobile, the Mobile County EMA and first responders will soon have access to a $10 million new 31,000 square foot Emergency Operations Center on Zeigler Boulevard to help protect the lives and property of citizens during emergencies and natural disasters. The Grand Opening is slated for June 1, incidentally, the same day that hurricane season begins. You are all invited to the grand opening, so stay tuned for more details.
At Mobile County Metro Jail, a new video surveillance system along with a $15 million facility expansion and upgrade is underway to improve security. $4.7 million was earmarked to fund the construction of the Mobile County Community Corrections Center, and the Strickland Youth Center is also receiving much-needed upgrades and improvements.
All sworn county law enforcement officers received a 10% total cost of living increase since April of 2017 to adjust salary ranges and assist in averting a crisis with recruitment and retention of qualified individuals.
Mobile County's commitment to achieving American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance has resulted in $1 million to date since 2016 in funding allocations to provide equal opportunity and improve access and safety in all county-owned facilities, and rights-of-way, for physically disabled citizens.
We can certainly celebrate our on-going commitment and accomplishments in improving our transportation infrastructure.
Over the last twelve months, Mobile County has programmed $82 million in either planning, design, construction or resurfacing of road and bridge infrastructure throughout the County. The 2016 Pay-As-You-Go Road Improvement Program funding allowed us to leverage funds for an additional $61 million in federal and state grants. Projects such as the widening of Zeigler Boulevard and South McGregor Avenue, and the resurfacing of McDonald Road and Airport Boulevard from I-65 to McGregor were just a few of the projects included for funding.
The County's investments in economic development this past year have also yielded very successful results, which include the construction of the 2.5 million square foot Walmart Distribution Center, the company's newest direct import distribution center along the central Gulf Coast, and the new Amazon Sortation Center, representing Amazon's first investment in the state.
The announcements from Chicago-based steelmaker SSAB Americas and Canadian-based Canfor Southern Pine of their plans to locate their U.S. Headquarters in Mobile County, and Airbus' announcement in January of plans to acquire principal ownership of the Canadian-based Bombardier C-Series aircraft and invest hundreds of millions of dollars to locate a final assembly line in Mobile. Both Continental Motors and Kimberly Clark, which have been a part of the county's landscape for many years also announced upcoming expansions.
These and other initiatives to grow and expand Mobile County's industry clusters are the direct result of collaboration and investment by Mobile County with our partners, the State of Alabama, the City of Mobile, the Alabama State Port Authority, The Mobile Airport Authority, our local utilities, our educational entities and the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. Our future as a community does not reside in the hands of any one group or individual. It is definitely a team effort!
While my commission colleagues and I each represent diverse areas of the county and constituencies, we strive very hard to work together to achieve common goals that benefit the entire county. From public safety to economic development to road projects and everything in between, enhancing the quality of life for all of our citizens is absolutely the priority that we share.
And speaking of road projects, I'm very pleased to announce that the long-stalled new US Hwy 98 project, located primarily in District 2, is back on track for completion in 2021 of two traffic lanes from Schillinger Road to the Mississippi state line. $40 million in State BP settlement funds have been allocated to the project to ease congestion on the road that is now known as "Bloody 98". Thank you to our Mobile County legislative delegation and the Alabama Department of Transportation for all of their help and assistance in moving this project forward.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Carl in District 3 has also been busy championing BP road project funding through the RESTORE Act. In March, the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council recommended approval of a $10 million dirt road paving and sediment reduction program for the South part of the county.
Throughout the county, parks and recreation as well as libraries have been a major focus this past year.
In Commission District 1, Commissioner Ludgood has prioritized a list of parks for upgrades and improvements, including a $1.5 million renovation project for Mt. Vernon Park to add additional parking, a new restroom, ball fields and a concession building.
Renovations will soon be underway at two city parks in Citronelle. Clayton Park and Davis Park will both receive upgrades and improvements utilizing District capital improvement funds.
Sage Park in the City of Mobile, which previously utilized District funding for upgrades and lighting, received additional funds for new and very popular basketball courts, and Blount High School also received an allocation to build girls' softball fields.
In Commission District 2 this past year, my office has also worked to improve and add parks and recreational venues.
In July of last year the newly renovated Playground Express at Medal of Honor Park reopened and has been packed with children ever since. The custom designed park represents a funding collaboration using District 2 CIP funds and city funding designated by Mobile City Councilwoman Bess Rich.
In the Semmes community area, funds were allocated to add two new parking lots to alleviate overcrowding at the Semmes Ballpark. Semmes Senior Center is currently on track for construction of a 2,400 square foot multipurpose room addition and added parking.
The Semmes Library building, previously owned by CVS Pharmacy and leased to the county under an expensive short-term contract was purchased last year by Mobile County in order to protect the long-term viability of the Library within the community.
And, I'm also very pleased to report that plans for building a Mobile County Soccer Complex are viable and back underway for the I-10/I-65 intersection location. The re-tooled project will be a District 2 Pay-As-You-Go type of initiative, with soccer fields and other amenities phased in to completion over a period of several years. The $3.8 million first phase will include two tournament quality fields and two seeded practice fields. Stay tuned going forward for much more on this exciting amenity.
In Commission District 3, Commissioner Carl has focused efforts this past year on improving senior centers. He dedicated more than a quarter million dollars for an addition to the Tillman's Corner Senior Center to add a fitness area and increase storage and office space. In addition, upgrades are planned for an increase in floor space and exterior renovations at the Grand Bay Senior Center.
Commissioner Carl has also championed funding to renovate a two-story historic building in Grand Bay for use as a library in order to provide new services to citizens in the area. His office also provided funding to purchase the Oddfellows Park in Bayou Le Batre which will be improved and maintained by the County.
Your three County Commissioners all strongly believe in leveraging resources and forming local partnerships to support educational and workforce training initiatives.
We are acutely aware of the critical role that a well-rounded education plays in contributing to our communities' economic prosperity and social environment, and are committed to providing whatever assistance we can toward that endeavor. In the past year, Commissioners have provided funding for a wide variety of education related projects and programs.
Capital projects have been the Hallmark in District 3 and included such initiatives as new playground equipment and a Special Needs Playground at Pearl Haskew Elementary, a resurfaced gym floor at Murphy High School and resurfaced parking lots at Alma Bryant Middle School, and Dixon and Castlen Elementary Schools.
Job readiness and internship training programs have continued to be a primary focus for Commissioner Ludgood. She is actively involved in assisting The Summer Youth Internship Program which places high school seniors and college students into a five week training program to gain invaluable real-world, on-the-job experience. She also collaborated with Mobile United in support of Engaging the Next Generation, a program designed to acquaint young professionals with volunteerism and develop servant leaders within the community. In addition, Commissioner Ludgood provided funding for the computer lab at Mobile County Training School.
Educational initiatives within my district have continued to focus on the specific needs of District 2 schools. In just the past year a total of over $200,000 in grant funding has been dispersed to individual schools for a variety of technology equipment. Other school needs that have been addressed include Outdoor Learning Programs and Playground Equipment. My office has also co-sponsored exhibits like Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs at the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, and Iceage Imperials opening May 26th at the History Museum of Mobile.
Music education remains a priority as well. Commissioner Ludgood and I, working with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra, have provided support in our respective districts for both the Preludes music education program and Strings classes for 3rd through 8th graders for group violin and cello lessons, as well as funding for Harlem Quartet school concerts.
The Mobile County Commission continues to be steadfast in its commitment to environmental stewardship and supporting a healthy and safe county.
Efforts to protect and clean-up the environment are a relentless and on-going priority.
The Mobile County Recycling Center on Hitt Road continues to receive tremendous community support collecting over 3 million pounds of recyclables in just the past year.
Six very successful Clean Sweep Operations were also held throughout the County in that same time period to help citizens clean-up their properties and properly dispose of garbage and junk. And my office, in collaboration with Keep Mobile Beautiful and The Alabama Coastal Heritage Trust, recently kicked off the Love Your Community anti-Litter Campaign to encourage citizen involvement and participation in dealing with this overwhelming problem. We hope the campaign will become a county-wide initiative.
In District 3, The Phase II Salt-Aire Shoreline Restoration project to protect the last large undeveloped parcel of property along the Western Shore of Mobile Bay is moving forward.
Our vision for a healthy and safe county includes supporting our Volunteer Fire Departments with essential fire safety equipment and assisting with capital improvements, such as the renovation of the Bullshead Fire Station in Prichard, and providing $1.6 million annually in operational funding to Mobile County Emergency Medical Services. It includes infrastructure upgrades, such as road improvements in Saraland to allow for the construction of a Diagnostic and Medical Building.
In summary, the Mobile County Commission strives every day to deserve the trust and confidence that you've placed in us to lead county government and to fulfill our obligations to build a better community and quality of life for all our citizens.
Today...together... we celebrate our past, we celebrate our accomplishments and we celebrate our future.
Thank you for your partnership and for your valuable time spent here with us today.