By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor
The Gadsden City Council heard a review of 2023 from various department heads at the first council meeting for 2024 on Wednesday, January 3, 2024.
The Wednesday morning meeting was a different day than usual due to recent holidays.
Following the regular business of the council meeting, department heads took turns approaching a podium with a microphone and shared stories and statistics from the previous 12 months.
Council members heard from Gadsden Fire Chief Wil Reed, Gadsden-Etowah Emergency Management Agency Director Derek Mummert, Parks and Recreation Event Supervisor Janet Tarrance, Parks and Recreation Director Jen Weathington, Noccalula Falls Supervisor Christina Richardson and interim Public Works Director Howell Mathews.
The first department head to speak was Tarrance, who gave a review of Christmas On The Coosa and upcoming events.
“We ended Christmas On The Coosa very, very strong,” Tarrance said. “We really started with a blank canvas. People didn’t know what it was.”
Tarrance said the photos and social media posts helped grow the interest in the event.
“It just started to really pick up,” Tarrance said. “We ended that last week with sold-out events almost every single hour. We even added on some hours.”
Due to rain, the event was only able to run for 19 days, but during those days, the city saw about 8,000 skaters at the rink.
“I really think for our first year we did great,” Tarrance said. “We had amazing sponsors. We had great vendors.”
Now that the event has ended, Tarrance said that she has already had discussions with vendors and other individuals on things that could have been done better and the things that worked well.
According to Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford, next year’s rink will have real ice and the rink itself will be bigger.
The event brought in $131,000, according to Ford. The rink itself cost the city $86,000, plus labor and additional costs.
“We got to keep the fire pits and all the heaters,” Ford said. “So, next year it won’t cost us so much. It paid for itself. We had a good time.”
Next up to the microphone was Richardson who delivered information on the success of Christmas at The Falls.
“It was our best year yet,” Richardson said. “I had set out a goal to hit a million dollars and we hit $1.1 million. So, fantastic year. We had no rainouts. That really helped keep the public a lot happier.”
Richardson gave praise to Brandon Stevens and the landscaping staff for their hard work putting up the lights displayed at the event.
The event drew such large crowds that the city’s public works department had to help with traffic control.
“We were able to handle it,” Richardson said. “Everyone was busy and running. If I needed to call somebody and get some help every department was willing to help, which is so great. We have not always had that.”
The next person to deliver information was Weathington, who gave updates on the youth sports in the city and upcoming registration.
According to Weathington, registration for soccer, softball and baseball youth leagues are open online at Gadsden.RecDesk.com. She also informed the council that Coosa Landing is getting ready for a large bass fishing tournament.
The tournament will be held February 17 and will consist of more than 200 high school fishing teams.
Howell stepped to the podium next to give a brief update on public works and the recycling center.
“We’ve been all over town, literally,” Howell said. “Recycling has absolutely exploded with business. We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to handle all of this. We’re going to put in for some grants in the near future.”
According to Howell, the recycling program has grown so much that they have no more available trailers to place around the city for pick up.
Howell hopes to have that problem resolved in the new year.
After remarks from the public works department, Fire Chief Reed gave an update on the state of the fire department.
According to Reed, the department is nearly fully hired, except for two positions they are still looking to fill and EMT training for firefighters at Gadsden State Community College is going well.
Reed also gave an update on the annual Toys 4 Santa event the department began about 20 years ago.
“We’re happy to report that not only did the department get truckloads, and I mean truckloads, of toys, we were able to collect over $37,000,” Reed said. “This was our banner year. The biggest one we’ve ever had. We helped over 500 children in the city this year. That’s the most we’ve ever helped. I hope 2024 is even better.”
He also gave a rundown of the calls received by the fire department in 2023. Those calls totaled over 9,000, which is up from 8,000 last year. Six thousand of the calls were for EMS and the other calls resulted in 394 active fires being worked by the department.
In addition to the calls answered and the inspection completed, the fire department received over $400,000 in grant funding.
The next speaker Wednesday morning was Mummert with the EMA.
Mummert delivered information on storm recovery in 2023, statewide grants and warming centers.
According to Mummert, the city now has four warming stations to activate whenever temperatures dip below freezing.
During the regular business portion of the meeting, the Gadsden City Council:
• Held a public hearing regarding a resolution issuing an alcoholic beverage license for Food City located at 951 Rainbow Drive. No members of the public spoke in favor for or in opposition of the resolution.
• Approved a resolution issuing an alcoholic beverage license for Food City located at 951 Rainbow Drive.
• Approved a resolution to award bid No. 3531 to Lambert Contracting, LLC for renovations at Noccalula Falls Campground for the amount of $11,376,500.
• Approved a resolution issuing an alcoholic beverage license for Gadsden Liquor located at 1015 Meighan Boulevard W. Suite B and C.
• Heard reminder of temporary bridge closures for Broad Street and Forrest Avenue for Saturday, Jan. 6.