“We continue to try to attract retail so residents won’t have to leave town to shop,” Smith said. “As a matter of fact we’ve had one retail outlet already open this year next to Winn-Dixie. (Isshin Asian Café). It’s small but it is a neat place. They were just going to have takeout but they realized some men might like to go in there and eat while their wives are in Winn-Dixie.”
Smith said that within a few weeks two physicians’ offices will be opening. In addition, two clothing stores will be locating on the Square.
“That’s important because it will fill up some empty businesses that we have,” Smith said. “One of those stores will open soon and the other a little later but they are working on the building as we speak.”
Smith pointed out that First Educators Credit Union continues to work on its building off Greenleaf.
The city’s new public safety complex will also begin work this year and the work should begin on the new elementary school. In addition, Shellco Industries is building a new 60,000 square foot building.
“One of the things I’m really excited about is that bonds have been secured for $2 million for the improvement of traffic signals. We have nine traffic lights in Jacksonville and it’s going to take $2 million to replace them, I don’t get it,” Smith said with a chuckle.
“But it is something we really need. We have a couple of relatively new lights, but most are old and worn out. They are so old that we can’t get parts for them.”
Smith said that the grant the city is getting is an 8020 matching grant through ALDOT.
“Even with the matching grant it was still going to cost us $400,000,” he said. “So we got on our knees in front of ALDOT and asked them to split that with us because most of those lights are on a state highway. They (ALDOT) signed a contract with us to pay $200,000. That means we’re getting $2 million of work for $200,000.
Smith said that replacing lights would be disruptive, but the city would try to work when there is less traffic.
During the past years, the city has been replacing one mile of cast iron gas pipe per year. The city reached that goal last year and Smith said there were nine more miles of pipe remaining.
“We’ll have to contract some of that work, especially around the Square.
Smith said the city continues to work on a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
“Our original plan was done around 1985 and we’ve updated and updated and updated. It just got to the point that we needed to start over.”
The mayor also had high praise for the police and fire departments. He said a new $450,000 fire truck is in use. The police department will be getting 23 body cameras.
“The body camera is about the size of a 9 volt battery and can clip on glasses or a hat,” Smith said. “I am really amazed at the quality they produce,” He said that 23 cameras will cost about $30,000, including software. He also said the police car cameras will also stay in place until they wear out.
Smith said the Cheaha Challenge will now start and end at Pete Mathews Coliseum at Jacksonville State. It will be held on April 6.
“This is huge for Jacksonville State because a lot of people will be here and they can see what the town and university have to offer.We really want to make a big deal out of this. So when they start at 7:30 in the morning we would like to have people lined up all way from the college through the Square with cow bells.”
The Cheaha Challenge is a 100-mile bicycle race. There were over 600 riders from 25 states last year.