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Looking ahead 2010: General

For local schools, governments and businesses, 2009 was filled with its share of events.

From proration taking a toll on schools’ budgets, to federal stimulus boosts for those same budgets, the year was unique, to say the least.

Governments had a similar story financially, but each also had several other key happenings.

For the Pike County Commission, it was the addition of new commissioner Oren Fannin, who took the District 6 seat after defeating election opponent Karen Berry in the courtroom.

The city of Brundidge also made big changes, passing utility rate changes onto its residents in the last months.

And perhaps, some of the best news of 2009, was the announcement of Troy’s newest industry CGI in September.

While 2009 was an eventful year, 2010 looks to have plenty in store of Pike County.

Construction

CGI’s move to Troy will bring new jobs to Pike County, but with it will also come several construction projects.

After CGI made its announcement to locate in Troy University’s Park Lane Shopping Center, the city quickly took advantage of a different aspect of its benefit — infrastructure.

Lunsford said it was with the justification of CGI’s new job opportunities that these grants were funded.

And in the last year, the city has already been awarded several grants, which will fund infrastructure projects involving the city’s sewer and water systems and heavily-traveled streets.

The first comes from a $2.5 million revolving loan fund, of which $950,000 will be forgiven by federal stimulus money, and will pay for a major sewer system project.

Construction bids will be awarded for this project Jan. 5, and construction will begin sometime in 2010.

The next project funded by a more than $1 million Community Block Development Grant will connect nearly all of the water systems within the city of Troy.

The project will add a 12-inch water main on Park Street that will connect to those already in place on Elm Street and George Wallace Drive.

Through this project, nearly all residents will have surety of always having running water in their homes and businesses, even if one of the water mains breaks.

“If it goes out in one area, you won’t lose water for the city,” Lunsford said.

This project will also increase water pressure in the city, Lunsford said.

The next big project the city’s residents will see is an expansion of South Brundidge Street, also thanks to grant money.

A $1.6 million grant from the Alabama Industrial Access Board will resurface all of South Brundidge Street, expand others and make sidewalk improvements, as well.

From in front of Pinkard Vault & Marble to University Avenue, the street will be widened to include an extra lane. The remainder of the road, from U.S. Highway 231 to Troy City Hall will be resurfaced.

Construction for each of these projects is expected to begin in the next year, and several of them will cause traffic delays at times.

However, Lunsford said once they are all complete, Troy will only be improved.

Taxes

Residents may not necessarily see more taxes, but they will likely vote on two key tax issues in the June 2010 primary election.

After meeting approval from the Pike County Commission, the Alabama Legislature will now vote on two local tax changes in its session this year.

The first will be an option to add an additional 2-mills to property taxes on homes outside of Troy City limits. With that, the proceeds would be split for the Pike County volunteer fire departments and the other for the Pike County Road Department and commission debt reduction.

In perspective, someone with a property worth $100,000 outside the Troy city limits is now paying $370 in ad valorem taxes, said Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair.

Those 2 mills would add around $20 more to the bill.

Volunteer fire departments, which include all in Pike County but the Troy Fire Department, are funded now solely by tobacco tax revenues and independent fund raisers.

Ray Armstrong, chief of the Springhill Volunteer Fire Department and secretary/treasurer of the Pike County Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, said those funds aren’t sufficient to keep these department’s doors open.

“If it wasn’t for fundraisers we do, we’d have to shut down because we couldn’t pay our bills,” Armstrong said in a previous article.

The county road department also has had its share of funding hardships this year, and Commission Chairman Jimmy Barron said it’d be an important reason to vote in favor of the tax.

“We’ve got to maintain our roads and bridges for the safety of people in Pike County,” Barron said, in a previous article in The Messenger.

The second tax change to come before the people of Pike County will be whether to add an additional 2 percent to the lodging taxes on hotels and motels.

The idea behind the tax originated with Commissioner Homer Wright, who wanted to find a way to generate revenues without directly taxing the people of Pike County.

Some hotel owners argue the tax would impact the county’s own residents, still.

With the revenues generated by an additional lodging tax, a projected $110,000, the commission plans to use them to promote tourism in the county and assist the road department.

It’s not guaranteed these issues will be on the June election ballot, but Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, said it is likely they will go before the legislature and pass for referendum.

Election

The year 2010 will be a key year for state elections, with the end of Gov. Bob Riley’s term.

Several have already announced their place in the gubernatorial race, and campaigns will be in full force as the year rolls in.

Republicans looking to take the seat are Robert Bentley, Bradley Byrne, Kay Ivey, Tim James, Bill Johnson, Roy Moore and James Potts.

Democrats Artur Davis and Ron Sparks are also vying for the top spot in state politics.

Closer to home, the District 2 Congressional seat will be up for vote once again.

Held now by Democrat Bobby Bright, who took the seat in 2008, after long-time congressman Terry Everett stepped down, Bright will have opposition in 2010.

Republicans Martha Roby and Rick Barber will face Bright in the coming year.

While there are several other state offices for vote, locally, there are two in Pike County.

Residing Circuit Judge Robert Barr will not take office in 2010, and two have thrown their names into the hat for the spot.

Local attorney Clif Haistings will face Coffee County attorney Shannon Clark for the spot.

If Clark takes the seat, however, there will be no residing circuit judge from Pike County, something in violation of an unwritten gentleman’s agreement made when the third judgeship spot was opened.

Pike and Coffee County District Attorney Gary McAliley has also announced he will finish his term this year and not seek office again.

Assistant DA Tom Anderson has officially announced he will seek the office this year, as a Republican candidate.

Hospital

What has undoubtedly been one of the city of Troy’s biggest issues this year is negotiations with Troy Regional Medical Center owners.

Before the close of 2009, the city of Troy took ownership of hospital real estate and are now leasing the property back to Troy Doctors Hospital, LLC.

This closes two years of backing the group with promises of financial support if the owners couldn’t afford the hospital themselves.

What lies ahead for the hospital and the city in 2010, no one can be certain.

But, hospital investor Gil McKenzie said its turnaround.

By the middle of the year, McKenzie said he anticipates the hospital being on solid footing, after two years of struggle to bring it out of debt.