Gadsden, RBC councils approve roadwork

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Photo: Rainbow City Mayor Joe Taylor (left) presents Lieutenant Philip Braswell with a commendation honoring his grandmother, 101-year-old Marjorie Bailey Bolding. (Emma Kirkemier/Messenger)

By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor

Citizens of Gadsden and Rainbow City can expect roadwork in the future after both cities passed resolutions authorizing several key changes at this past week’s council meetings.

The Rainbow City Council approved a contract with the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority for marketing and consulting services on the city’s industrial properties. The contract — which was negotiated at $4,167 per month for one year — follows another recently created between the IDA and the Etowah County Commission for the marketing of the NEAR Megasite, which will be zoned for Rainbow City.

In addition, the council officially authorized a partnership with the commission in which each entity will pay for half the cost of an interstate access request. The IAR must be submitted to the Alabama Department of Transportation in order to create a new interchange on I-59 that would directly access the NEAR Megasite.

According to previous statements by commission Chief Administrative Officer Shane Ellison, Rainbow City’s continued partnership with the Etowah County Commission in the development of the Megasite will bring industry to the area benefitting both the county and the municipality.

Meanwhile, the City of Gadsden authorized an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation for the improvement of a busy intersection at US-278/US-431 and Hood Avenue. The project will repave the intersection and reconfigure its turn lanes.

Another ALDOT agreement will improve the railway crossing at US-431/US-278 and 6th Street North in Gadsden. Roadwork was also approved as a contract with CDG, Inc., to rehabilitate the stretch of Hoke Street between Meighan Boulevard and Goodyear Avenue.

City of Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford reported on his administration’s recent trip to Washington, D.C., which included over a dozen meetings with national representatives in the interest of securing federal funds and industrial development for the city.

The council voted to purchase a new firetruck for the Gadsden Fire Department that will replace a 16-year-old ladder truck currently in use in Alabama City.

Funds to make the purchase totaling $1,019,956 will be moved from the Broad Street Bridge repair fund to the city’s account for motor vehicles.

“The truck is a little over $1 million,” said Gadsden Fire Chief Wil Reed. “We’ve been pricing trucks for the last year and a half, and I’ve been watching them go up 15 percent here, eight percent there. We have been discussing it with multiple vendors. Most of the vendors will go 24, 36, maybe 48 months before they can produce this truck. We were fortunate enough through our partnership with E-ONE to find a truck that they will have off the line in February, and according to the meeting we had the other day, be available for the City of Gadsden next June. This truck is also the lowest of the trucks that were priced. The next lowest truck was around $1.3 million.”

Ford addressed concerns about the transfer of funds out of the Broad Street Bridge project account, funds which were received in part through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Ford argued that using ARP funds to purchase a new ladder truck for the fire department was the best move for several reasons. After the D.C. trip, he felt confident that the city would soon secure other grants and funds specifically to pay for the bridge construction work, he said, and moving the money to make it useful immediately was better than having it sit unused in the Broad Street Bridge fund, which prior to the transfer contained only $2 million of the roughly $6 million estimated to be needed to complete the bridge repairs.

District 3 Councilman Larry Avery emphasized the importance of using ARP funds as intended in the language of the bill, which sparked a discussion about certain earmarked city funds, including ARP monies, most of which had already been designated for use by the previous administration.

Director of Engineering Heath Williamson outlined several construction projects in the works throughout the city, including in District 3.

Reed explained the fire department’s “rolling stock,” in which the new truck would be prepared for duty and the 16-year-old truck would be moved into reserve, where it would replace the current 1997-model reserve truck.

“We try to replace our fire engines on a 10-year schedule; some of our ladder trucks we’ll try to push out to 15 years,” he said.

The city fire department is required by the Insurance Services Office, or ISO, to maintain a reserve truck at a certain level of functionality. According to Ford, delays in replacing the oldest fleet and reserve truck could lower the city’s ISO rating, which would affect homeowner premiums in the city.

The council voted to move forward with the ladder truck purchase, with more information on the Broad Street Bridge repairs to come. Williamson also mentioned plans to build a new fire station with police detail attached, which will be modeled after Station 7, recently erected in Banks Park.

The city council will hire grant writers to research and apply for federal grants, like those which could hopefully be applied to the bridge repair project, making use of Gadsden’s multiple distinctions as a rural and historically disadvantaged community. Council members voted to contract with a third party in Alagrants, LLC, to begin this process.

Both cities also bestowed commendations.

Rainbow City recognized a citizen who recently turned 101 years old.

Marjorie Bailey Bolding is a resident of Rainbow City, where she currently lives with her daughter Peggy Braswell. Bolding’s grandson, Lieutenant Philip Braswell of the Rainbow City Police Department, accepted the commendation on her behalf.

Mayor Joe Taylor shared that numerous first responders participated in a parade down Bolding’s street earlier that week in celebration of her milestone birthday.

“We ended up carrying as many police officers as we possibly could and several firetrucks, and we did a little parade on her street for her,” Taylor said. “She was thrilled to death. She was out on the front porch. It was a little chilly, but we wrapped her up and made sure that she was warm. It was just a really good time, to get out there and spend some time with her. 101 years old, that’s no joke. We’re thrilled to have her as a resident in the City of Rainbow City.”

Taylor added that Bolding is now the second-ever inductee into the city’s “centenarian club.”

Ford and the Gadsden City Council recognized GCHS student Chris Underwood of the Beautiful Rainbow Café, who was recently accepted into Auburn University’s EAGLES program.

Alabama State Representatives Mark Gidley and Mack Butler joined the council meeting to offer their own commendation of the City of Gadsden Police Department’s Lieutenant Josh Russel, who recently saved a young child from venturing into traffic on Rainbow Drive in a toy car.

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