State of the City
October 7th, 2014
I'd like to share the state of the city now that 2014 is behind us and our 2015 budget has been passed.
As we have promoted in the past month, Daniel Pratt established the City of Prattville 175 years ago. Would he have or could he have ever thought that Prattville would be what we are today?
Today, I would like to talk about the condition of our great City and our Partners of Prattville. Here is some information about us. Prattville is home to approximately 35,000 people. Approximately 38% of our population is associated with the military. Almost 40% of the Officers at Maxwell that reside off base live in the Preferred Fountain City. I'm proud to say that Prattville has a very healthy relationship with Maxwell/Gunter. The Maxwell connection has a significant role in Prattville's local economy.
The Board of Education is the largest governmental employer in Autauga County. International Paper is our next largest employer in Autauga County. Working with and through the Chamber of Commerce, we have a healthy relationship with the Autauga County Commission and our small businesses. I share this information with you to say that our Partnerships with Governmental Agencies along with small and large businesses, and with numerous others, are doing well.
Our Budget has grown and the City's role has changed since Daniel Pratt. Our role has grown and one of the reasons is because of the many new opportunities available to us. Being centrally located in the state and just minutes from Maxwell, we offer travelers and residents choices and options to eat in Prattville, hotels in which to stay while in Prattville, and the many shopping choices here whether it's uptown or historic downtown. Outdoor enthusiasts can be accommodated here as well. With our RTJ Golf Course at Capitol Hill and the recently returned LPGA Tournament, golf enthusiasts converged to watch the best women golfers in the world. With Autauga Creek literally in our backyard, canoers, kayakers and nature lovers have partaken of this vital resource, the reason Daniel Pratt settled in this location, in larger numbers than we've ever seen. We all know how important those tourism and shopping dollars are to our economy. All of these, plus so many other reasons, are why people have decided to live in or visit our hometown. Our role has changed; our infrastructure has changed over the last 175 years.
Our City's infrastructure has evolved since Mr. Pratt laid down wooden planks on what is now known as Maple Street. We recently paved Wetumpka Street, Cobbs Ford Road, and Sheila Boulevard and now have multiple paving projects going on such as Memorial Highway, Highway 82 and 6th Street, and many to follow such as Court Street, which was previously known as Factory Street. Paving dollars are shrinking, so we are looking for creative ways to keep the momentum of our paving projects moving forward.
Recent sidewalk repair projects, and new sidewalks being poured for safety, contribute to the healthy lifestyles of our Citizens.
We have storm drainage pipes being laid to increase our curb appeal and also to help reduce our operating costs.
We are a mechanized service oriented organization. By reducing man hours on weed eating ditches and moving towards mechanized cutting equipment, we will make them not only more efficient, but also more effective in their roles, thus enabling them to work smarter not harder.
Our environmental works departments are becoming more and more efficient, effective, and ever evolving in accomplishing their roles. The Enterprise Fund Accounts are proving to be a significant game changer for these departments when you couple them with the newly formed Public Works Department and the Director's position. I'm very confident that if our Environmental Works Departments continue to evolve and progress like they have, then they are poised for success, not only for 2015, but also for the next 175 years.
Our Public Safety Departments not only protect us, but also educate us. Their calls to our citizens have increased. Their training is paying off in this community. We are a very safe, small town America. That comes from several things. Our Fire Department has many roles to insure the safety of this City. They not only train themselves, but school children, businesses and builders on everything from how to prevent fires to how to put out fires, and also the dos and don'ts of building by code. All of this is done in the public's interest of a safe community.
The Police Department's training and schooling also extends to the public through School Relations and in cooperation with churches and other organizations. The Police Firearms Safety class and the Fire and Police Citizens Academy are just some of their public relations tools. They reach out not only to our youth, our future leaders, but also to our seniors, our pillars of progress.
Public Safety, in conjunction with Parks and Rec, recently proved to our youth how important it is to stay active during the World Wide Day of Play event. Our Parks and Recreation is doing well with improvements while planning for the future. The recent hotel room fee that is dedicated to Parks and Rec Capital Projects is enabling them to do some of this planning. That account has grown to just over 300,000 dollars and growing for future upgrades. Prattville is utilizing our parks and our programs. We became America's Favorite Park in the summer of 2012 and the community loves the splash pad and our other park attractions.
These items cover just a few things that we offer our citizens and our visitors.
In General Government, our Human Resources Department has done a great job making certain that not only do we have great benefits for our employees, but also that costs are kept down. Managing healthcare costs, benefits, and maintaining documents are just a few of the vital functions of this very important department. HR helps all of the departments with our human infrastructure. Not to be corny, but without our "human resources", we simply could not provide our community the services to which our residents are accustomed.
Our equipment resources have to be managed efficiently and that is done through our City Clerk's office in conjunction with our department heads. Our City Clerk worked diligently with department heads to establish an asset management system this past year. This department is also working hard to update our Boards and Committees with our City Planner and also, to update some of our ordinances in order to reflect current practices.
Downtown is doing well. Daniel Pratt would be impressed with the shopping, eateries, the curb appeal and preservation of history recently noted with the refurbishment of the Musgrove fountain.
Our financial footprint is such that in a recent trip to NYC, Standard and Poor's upgraded us from an A- three years ago to our current standing at today's AA- rating. One firm commented that it appeared that we are on the cutting edge when it comes to full disclosure of our financial standing, records, and debt information online. With the continued reduction of debt and the recent credit rating upgrade, the City stands poised to pay off another block of debt on November 1st.
Working with our Finance Director and City Council, our budgetary process is about checks and balances and not spending more than you collect. Our department heads have become very accustomed to strategically planning for the year's business in the best interest of their respective departments and our community's needs.
Please be reminded that as a municipality, infrastructure and equipment needs will dictate future spending habits. There is good debt and bad debt. We have shown you that we are working hard to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and we will continue that trend. Maintaining the health of our infrastructure should never be considered bad debt.
Our department heads' ability to trim costs coupled with our financial health have made it possible for our employees to receive merit and cost of living increases in this coming year. Thank you, City Councilors, for passing those items in our 2015 budget. Thank you, also, Councilors for your work through Council Committees and your strong commitment to this community and to moving this great city forward and helping make this raise possible.
Economic Development is a team effort. One of the roles of this municipality is to create an environment for private enterprise to flourish alongside a governmental partner. Those partners are the Board of Education, County Government, the Chamber of Commerce, and City Government consisting of Public Safety, Public Works, General Government, and Quality of Life. All of these components are vital in the economic development spoke, hub and wheel concept. When we are able to couple all of these with private enterprise, clergy, and the work ethic that Daniel Pratt has instilled in this community, economic development thrives. The City of Prattville has several economic development projects in the works at this time and hopefully, they will come to fruition in the near future.
I want to leave you with one of my favorite personal sayings: The perception of this city is viewed considerably through each of us, and our Southern Hospitality. The City of Prattville has grown considerably over the last 20 years and I believe that is because we still offer "Mayberry" to our residents and visitors alike. I believe that's a good thing.
I never anticipated that our financial health would be this far along in just 3 years and 8 months. No one person can do everything. It takes all of us working together to achieve greatness. Thank you to the Citizens of Prattville, City employees, Department Heads, and the City Council for your support, dedication, sacrifice, and hard work for this community.
In closing, the state of our city is outstanding and we intend to stay this course in order to realize a prosperous future for our youth, my grandchildren-to-be and yours.
Thank you. I look forward to a successful 2015 with all of you!
Bill Gillespie, Jr.
Mayor, City of Prattville