By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On Tuesday, August 13, the City of Gadsden celebrated two new improvements in the city.
At 9 a.m., city officials hosted a ribbon cutting for the grand opening of the Alabama City Center. The project was the second phase of renovations for the former General Forrest Middle School. The first renovation phase refurbished an adjacent facility into what is now the Boys and Girls Club.
The Alabama City Center will be the new home of the Transportation Department and add a police presence in the area, with a substation located in the facility.
“The new facility for the transportation department was much needed and will help them better run their routes,” said Mayor Sherman Guyton. “The police presence is especially important to me, since it will keep our community safer and give them another footprint in this area.”
District 6 Councilman Johnny Cannon, whose district encompasses the new Alabama City Center, also praised the benefits of the new police presence.
“The police presence should help us with our crime situations and also help with response time down there.”
The mayor and council members said that the Alabama City Center is just one of the projects the city has been working on to improve Gadsden for its residents.
“We’ve been working with the council, and we all have the same idea.,” said Guyton. “We want to do some thins, that make things better for everybody.”
“The city council, along with the mayor, and especially the staff of the city, they’re doing a good job,” said Councilwoman Cynthia Toles. “We’re still intensely trying to grow as a city, making old things look new.”
Another example of improvements in Gadsden was announced later that day at the Gadsden City Council meeting when the city approved the acceptance of a $1 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The grant will be used to make improvements to airfield operations at the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport.
“This is an important investment and a critical next step in our plan to continue to improve the airport area,” said Guyton. “We appreciate the FAA’s ongoing commitment to the operations at the airport and to supporting the many activities that take place there, including the increasing military operations with the 20th Special Forces, and other units. This is a great investment for the people of Gadsden, Rainbow City, Etowah County, and all of Northeast Alabama. With a five percent match from the airport authority, this will have a huge impact on the area with limited cost to Gadsden residents.”
The grant will be used to rehabilitate the taxiway to the main runway, which was repaved in 2014, and to improve the drainage area and protect the electrical vault that powers the airport.
“The taxiway project has been needed for a couple of years, and we had the opportunity to receive discretionary money from the FAA,” said Kenneth Gilbert of Neel-Schaffer Inc., Consulting Engineer for Northeast Alabama Regional Airport. “This is a competitive process, and we were very happy to receive the funding. The taxiway was reaching the end of the life and we should be able to complete this project by the end of the year.”
“Anytime we can make it safer for the airplanes to take off and land, out there in District 6, it’s a win-win for everybody,” added Cannon.
“You need to go look and see all of the improvements that are being made,” said Toles about the new Alabama City Center and Boys and Girls Club. “Go down and walk on the riverfront. There’s a lot of things going on. I challenge the citizens of Gadsden, since you live here, check out what’s going on so you can appreciate it. And I think that you will like it a little bit, if not a whole lot.”