Last year began with a new form of government in place in which the mayor does not vote in council meetings, but does have veto power.
“There was potential for conflict, but it has been a fairly smooth transition,” Smith said. “I did not veto anything and that’s a sign that everybody is working together.”
Smith said that even though the economy has been sluggish, new businesses have opened in town.
“We have a new Jack’s, Legghorn’s, Daylight Donuts, Jacksonville Auto Sales and several new retail outlets,” he said. “That always help the tax base. Sometimes you have money being moved around from one hamburger place to another.”
Smith also pointed out that Calhoun Meter Company has opened its new building in the Jacksonville Industrial Park and that Jacksonville Health and Rehab has completed its facility.
Smith is happy that the Industrial Development Board has been revived and is working on several projects.
“Of course their number one job is to get new industry,” Smith said. “They are working on making the Industrial Park more inviting to clients and they are making an inventory of building around town that would be suitable for prospects.”
The mayor also said he and the board are doing something different. They are visiting existing industries and getting their input.
“In the past we have only tried to recruit new industries,” he said. “Existing industry is where a lot of our new jobs are created and we need to make sure what’s already here, stays here. We want them to grow and we need to find ways to help them grow.”
Smith said that in the near future a major announcement will be made by a Jacksonville industry that will create 106 jobs. “We’re waiting on the governor’s signature to approve the package we’re put together for this expansion,” he said.
Smith also believes that the completion of the Eastern Bypass the completion of Iron Mountain Road to Alabama 21 will help Jacksonville.
“It will put us in a unique position to not only attract new industry but also allow for growth in our residential areas,” he said.
Last year, Smith said, Jacksonville either tore down or brought into compliance 29 unsafe structures and had 37 junk cars removed or brought into compliance.
“In 2013, we responded or worked on 475 code violation like houses or junk cars or overgrown grass or junk around houses,” he said “Out of 475, 445 were resolved. We think that’s a pretty good percentage. We do that with one compliance officer and that’s not his only job. He’s also safety officer.”
Smith said that last year, paving was completed on Mountain Street from Alabama 21 to the Old Gadsden Highway. Gardner Drive was paved as well as Oak Street, Findley Street and Robinson Street. In addition, the Creekside Trail was paved from the Chief Ladiga Trail to Jacksonville.
The city also used a $450,000 block grant to place new sewer lines on A, B, C and D streets. City crews also replaced more than a mile of cast iron gas pipes.
And what’s the prospectus for 2014?
“We want to attract more retail stores so that our money stays right here in Jacksonville,” Smith said. “We want people to be able to buy what they need right here and not have to go to Anniston or Gadsden.”
Smith said work on the city’s new public safety complex and a new elementary school should begin this year. And Shelco should begin working on a new 6,000 square foot building. In addition, the city has secured bonds to upgrade several traffic signals and work will continue on replacing old gas pipes.