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Newfoundland and Labrador

A look ahead at 2023: Sidewalk projects, city manager study among 2023 goals

By the end of the year, the city of Homewood is expected to have some new sidewalks and a possible recommendation for a new form of government.

Other notable projects include a pocket park on Saulter Road, a redevelopment of Reese Street, and a change to the city’s emergency services.

In the school system, Homewood City Schools focus on renovations, park projects, and continuous professional development.

City view

Mayor Patrick McClusky said the Green Springs Connector project should be complete in the first quarter of 2023.

This project includes installing sidewalks from Broadway Street to Lakeshore Drive and will connect area residents to the city’s existing sidewalk network, McClusky said.

Sidewalks will also be built on Mecca Avenue sometime in the first quarter of the year, he said.

On Reese Street, City Council President Alex Wyatt said the street, which is currently one-way, will be narrowed to make room for sidewalks, lighting and some parallel parking. The project will allow this part of Homewood to connect to 18th Street, Wyatt said.

The city is working to complete the second phase of the Shades Creek Greenway, expanding hiking opportunities in the Lakeshore area, and will also soon complete 18th Street South, McClusky said. 18th Street still needs landscaping, light pole installation, and some other finishing work, McClusky said. That project should be complete by mid-January, he said.

The city is also planning a pocket park for Saulter Road that will include green space, jungle gyms and a playground. Read the story in this month’s newspaper for more information on this project.

Wyatt said the city is still working with ALDOT to schedule the Interstate 65/Lakeshore Drive divergent diamond project, which aims to relieve traffic congestion by creating a divergent diamond that crosses traffic on the opposite side of the street at the bridge and allows drivers to make left turns onto I-65 without stopping. It also allows vehicles approaching Lakeshore from the freeway exit ramps to merge into traffic without waiting for a stop light.

A schedule for this project is not known.

The city is beginning work on stormwater improvements on College Avenue and is awaiting information from a stormwater survey to prioritize other improvement projects, Wyatt said.

In addition to city projects, the city recently contracted with the Lifeguard Ambulance Service to ensure dedicated ambulances can serve city residents and reduce long response times.

A widespread staff shortage had resulted in long waits and a need for the city to have its own ambulances rather than using regional providers to take calls and provide transport across multiple counties.

Lifeguard plans to offer a 24-hour ambulance and a 12-hour ambulance, Josh Spencer, Lifeguard’s regional director, previously said. Those two ambulances will both be fully manned by lifeguards, Spencer said, and more ambulances could be added as needed.

The initial contract lasts for three years and costs $328,500 per year, increasing by 3% each year. There is a maximum extension period of two years should the city choose to do so, City Clerk Melody Salter said. The contract can be paid in monthly installments.

In addition to staffing, Lifeguard takes care of all billing. Residents will continue to call 911 through the city’s dispatch center. Those calls are then routed to Lifeguard, Spencer said.

In 2023, the city is looking forward to further economic growth and development. Plans are in the works to replace the current Piggly Wiggly with a new, larger store on the same property, along with renovations to Cameron’s Corner, the shopping center next to Piggly Wiggly. Though few details are known, West Homewood has plans to renovate and redevelop the former Econo Lodge property, along with new businesses like Social Taco coming to town.

While the city has created two entertainment districts in Edgewood and downtown Homewood, respectively, there are no current plans to bid for a third entertainment district, Wyatt said. The council had previously discussed adding a district in West Homewood, but would need to get approval from the state legislature before voting on whether to create a third district. The two existing counties have thrived and crime has not increased, Wyatt said.

City Manager Study

Last summer, following a campaign promise, McClusky urged the council to form committees to study a new form of government that might result in Homewood hiring a city manager or manager.

The city currently has a mayor/council form of government, which assigns day-to-day responsibilities of the city to the mayor, while the council serves as the city’s legislature. Homewood’s 11-member council is also the largest in the state of Alabama.

There are several options for the city:

Council/Manager: This is the form of government in Vestavia Hills, where the mayor votes as part of the council and represents the city for ceremonial purposes, while the town manager carries out the day-to-day running of the city. The City Council is responsible for hiring the City Manager.

Mayor/Council/Current: This is the form of government in Mountain Brook, where the city manager can be fired with a two-thirds majority of the council, which can also vote to change the form of government. The manager handles the city’s administrative duties aside from hiring and firing the police and fire chiefs.

City Manager: This is Hoover’s form of government where the mayor serves as the chief executive officer and hires a city manager to work for the mayor and handle some of the city’s administrative duties.

Committees were formed to study the effects and pros and cons of each form of government. The meetings are held regularly and are open to the public.

McClusky said he hopes that by mid-year the study committee will have everything before the council and the full council can begin deliberating on his recommendations. By the end of the year, he hopes the council will make its recommendation public.

Depending on what that recommendation is, it may require a public vote. Hiring a city manager would not require a vote, but moving to a city manager form of government would require it, and the city might require a referendum put on the ballot by Montgomery lawmakers, McClusky said.

Municipal Schools

In the city school system, Superintendent Justin Hefner said the system has identified three “broad goals” as part of its strategic five-year plan implemented this school year: a focus on learning, student and staff well-being, and student development.

The system is working to meet those goals, Hefner said, including continuing professional development for teachers and expanded career-technical training opportunities for students.

The new year will also see projects like the addition of parking lots at Homewood High School and renovations at Waldrop Stadium.

Hefner said the system is focused on creating “tiered support systems” for staff and students, as well as improving transitions from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school.

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