Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson will host her annual State of the City address Thursday, April 26, at 3 p.m. at the James P. Nix Center on Bayou Drive. In a recent interview, Wilson said she was eager to tout accomplishments from 2017 while previewing plans for “future Fairhope.”
“There have been some distractions and a lot of the time that seems like all anyone focuses on, but my administration and department heads and the City Council has also made a lot of progress that has gone unreported, so I think it’s important to highlight our success and tell everyone what they have to look forward to.”
Among the highlights are a 12 percent increase in revenues and 7 percent decrease in expenditures. The city also reduced transfers out of the utilities budget by $3.9 million, providing more leeway for much-needed infrastructure improvements.
“We’re doing extremely well as a city financially — better than we ever have before,” she said. “Cutting wasteful spending, investing more in personnel needs and budgeting for all the infrastructure needs we have. We’re in line to pay off debt by 2020, when the budget will be self-sustaining without utility subsidies. We also increased our cash bank balances by about $10 million.”
Wilson also made note of more than $17 million in RESTORE Act projects that were funded in the city earlier this year, as well as several key hires in various city departments. The city also opened its much-anticipated soccer complex and took control over its marina, among other things.
“We probably accomplished more last year, moving the city forward in a positive direction than the last 10 years.” she said.
Still, she said with a booming population and continued growth, city services are being stretched thin — particularly at the police department, which Wilson said is understaffed for a city of Fairhope’s size.
“What is happening today is happening everywhere in Baldwin County so it can’t be ignored anymore. But other cities are doing better. We need to grow the police department according to a plan for the next five years.”
According to Wilson’s own figures, the population in Fairhope’s police jurisdiction is 32,663 but the department has only 35 sworn officers. Daphne, with a population of 25,913, has 54 sworn officers and Foley, with a population of 17,607, has 62 sworn officers.
Looking over a map of Fairhope’s irregular corporate limits, Wilson suggested annexations may be in order.
“We can’t continue to give it away without it being funded,” she said. “We’re not being made whole right now for the services we provide. It’s a very good thing coming inside the city limits — you’re contributing to overall services, ensuring proper zoning, and once that happens, property values increase.”