Fairhope Karin Wilson’s State of the City presentation Tuesday evening was more of a Part One.
Saying she’s still working on strategies and priorities for the future and seeking feedback from others, Wilson focused on “where we’ve come from,” and “where we are.” “Where we’re going” will be the subject of a similar event in June, she said.
After opening with some of the history of Fairhope dating back to 1870, Wilson said she’s looking at the number of people who live outside Fairhope’s city limits but take advantage of its amenities that are provided through the tax dollars of city residents. She did not specify a means of raising additional revenue from that group, but said it made up about half of the total population in the police and planning jurisdictions.
Since 2010, Wilson said, Fairhope’s population has grown by 24 percent to an estimated 32,079. More than 5,000 students attend the city’s five public schools. Problems such as traffic and utilities services have to be dealt with, Wilson said, and bringing more tourism to Fairhope is a good way to raise revenue even if some residents don’t care for the idea.
“I know we’d like to form a gate and say we’re all under a bubble now,” she said. But more revenue is needed from those living outside the city limits to handle the demand for city services.
For example, Wilson estimates that the city owned utilities system has $25 million worth of infrastructure needs in electric, gas, water and wastewater treatment services. Significant reductions in the amount of utilities revenue contributed to the general fund and in overall city debt, the city doesn’t have enough money to cover the utilities work that’s needed.
In addition, Wilson said, “Stormwater will be of utmost importance.”
Also Tuesday, Wilson and WABF-AM station manager Lori DuBose presented two of Fairhope’s most prestigious civic awards. Wilson selected Charlene Lee as Volunteer of the Year. Among many volunteer activities, Lee oversees the Walking School Bus program, in which 40 to 80 children a day meet at a designated place to walk to Fairhope Elementary School under adult supervision.
DuBose presented the Fairhope First Quality of Life award to Mary Riser, executive director of the Fairhope Film Festival.