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Mayor gives state of the city address

Pictured, from left to right, are  Ann Tate, Mayor Dr. Pat Walker and Luverne Rotary Club President Danny Rolling (Photo by Beth Hyatt).

Pictured, from left to right, are Ann Tate, Mayor Dr. Pat Walker and Luverne Rotary Club President Danny Rolling (Photo by Beth Hyatt).

At a recent meeting of the Luverne Rotary Club, Mayor of Luverne Dr. Pat Walker addressed the current state of the city. His talk focused on finances, city improvements and repairs and the possibility of a bypass being constructed for the betterment of the 90 degree turn at the Highway 331 and Highway 29 intersect.

“The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has come to us over several years about some form of bypass. A long time ago they were talking about a major bypass around Luverne. That has pretty much been done away with,” Walker said.

“Now they are talking about a mini-bypass or a two-way pairs concept.”

ALDOT has prepared four possible concepts for the betterment of the 90 degree turn at the Highway 331 and Highway 29 intersect.

 Robyn Snellgrove shows Rotary Club members maps of the potential bypass routes discussed by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) (Photo by Beth Hyatt).

Robyn Snellgrove shows Rotary Club members maps of the potential bypass routes discussed by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) (Photo by Beth Hyatt).

In June, ALDOT region engineer George Conner demonstrated to city officials the configurations of how each concept could relieve the congestion of traffic at that intersection.

The improvements of the intersection come as a result of two things: a missed opportunity of economic development and a committee meeting with Gov. Robert Bentley and various government officials.

Due to this missed opportunity, a committee of people from Crenshaw and Covington County requested a meeting with Bentley to remedy the intersection.

After taking a closer look at the traffic congestion issue, ALDOT confirmed that congestion is a problem seasonally, and during certain times of the week during that season.

Conner introduced four concepts for solving the congestion. A lower cost bypass or pairs option, and a higher cost bypass or pairs option. The lower cost option was said to cost between $3-$8 million. The higher cost options were said to cost anywhere from $10-$20 million.

“None of the concepts are perfect,” said president and CEO of the Crenshaw County Economic and Industrial Development Authority Robyn Snellgrove.

“We just have to look and see which ones are not detrimental to our downtown area and our citizens.”

Due to the fact that the state of Alabama does not have the funds readily available for the project, Conner says the start of production is still seven to 10 years off.

Along with talks of the bypass options, Walker shared his feelings on his term as mayor.

“I have truly felt honored to serve the citizens of Luverne for the past year as mayor,” he said.

Walker stated that currently the city’s budget remains almost the same as it was when former mayor Joe Rex Sport resigned last October.

Over the past year, purchases have been made for the city, such as an SUV for the Luverne Police Department, plans to buy another vehicle for LPD this year, a new city garbage truck, a motor for the street sweeper and city lawn mowers.

Walker says that repairs have also been made to many buildings around the town, such as reroofing the Luverne Public Library and renovating the conference room, reroofing the old police station, roof work on the ice cream shop, purchasing the Douglas Pharmaceutical Building on HWY 331 and obtaining the T and B Motor Company. Walker says the city is currently looking into purchasing the land across the street from T and B Motor Company in hopes to expand the Luverne Fire Department.

Walker also mentioned that soon a street improvement project will be underway, which will pave and repair small areas of different streets that are in major disrepair. The current money received from gas taxes will be used for this project.

Walker would also like to see more police officers train for and remain with LPD after returning from the police academy.

To try and see this happen, Walker says the city has elected to increase the pay of the officers during the year, and as of Oct. 1 it was scheduled to increase again. The city has also seen a change in insurance, which will give better insurance at a reduced rate, Walker says.

Walker notes that electricity rates are lower in part because electricity is purchased through the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority (AMEA). Walker said it has already been announced by AMEA that electricity rates will not increase over the next three to five years.

“We have some of the lowest rates for electricity, water, sewage and garbage of anywhere around, and I think that’s commendable for our citizens. We want to keep it that way,” Walker said.

Since the passing on the one-half cent sales tax last year, Walker says it has given abut $30,000 a month in additional revenue to the city.

“It has been a wonderful experience for me, and I will miss it and remember it with fondness. I feel blessed to call Luverne a home,” Walker said.