Eclectic Mayor Gary Davenport said the town has managed its finances well enough to weather a decrease in sales tax revenue and is encouraged by young families moving to the area.
In the second part of a question-and-answer session, Davenport addressed finances, development, roads and future growth.
What are the state of finances for the town?
The state of the finances of the town are very good. We projected a $50,000-$55,000 drop in sales tax revenue for this year and so far that was a very conservative estimate. We’ve got another 60 days left in the year right now. (It) looks like we have managed our finances in such a basis that we will actually do better than that, so we won’t have that much loss. So we’ve done real well financially with that.
We’re still needing to improve on some of our equipment, police cars, town vehicles. We have several of those aging that we need to go ahead and get several replacements for so those are things we’re planning on for the next 12-18 months.
Right now we’ve got seven police cars. We have six town vehicles that are used with water, sewer and public works and we have decommissioned four vehicles due to age and lack of dependability so it’s just a matter of replacing those. We’ve replaced two out of the four so it’s going to be an ongoing situation; we have planned for probably two vehicles a year, maybe three depending on the town’s finances so that we can continue to roll the fleet where we’re not forced to replace vehicles unexpectedly.
What does the city’s economic prosperity depend on?
Continued growth, slow growth. We’re not expecting anything fancy or out of the ordinary. We keep contacting and discussing with developers. We’d like to see some more residences. We’d like to see some rental property. Those are ongoing discussions so that those people who want to move to Eclectic or the Eclectic area because of the school system and what we have to offer are able to do that.
We are working hard to get a good representation on the 2020 census because we feel like that’s very important to help us out and help Elmore County out so that we get the funds that we need after that census is counted. That in itself will be very important with the roadwork and construction that needs to be done.
We’ve been working with Elmore County on the Rebuild Alabama program with the gas tax that is coming in, so we’re making plans so we can capitalize those funds and hopefully what we wind up doing is partnering with Elmore County and (Alabama Department of Transportation) so we can get two or three projects done at one time… you’re probably looking around the first of the year. We’ve had two meetings so far.
Fortunately most of the big projects that need to be done are not in our area, in our jurisdiction, and the work that those two government entities that we’ll be working with are probably a year or two down the road. (That’s repaving) Highway 63 and some of the county roads around here. We’ll be ready to go ahead and partner with them to do some of our roads. We have roughly about five or six roads that need some real attention to them. Most everything that we’re doing now is patching potholes and keeping the roads to where they are sustainable until that gets here.
Where would you want the town to be in the next five years and 10 years?
Next five, 10 years I can see the population increasing with the town.
We’re starting to get some younger families moving in which is great. The town hasn’t seen that type of growth in several years and I think it will be slow growth, which is good.
We have a situation with the lake and the recreational activities in our area here with the hiking trails and so forth that the people who come here want to live here because they’re not interested in large cities. They’re more interested in good hometown America and that’s basically what we’re designed to fit that need.
Do you know why so many young people have moved here?
I think it’s because of the school system, No. 1. I think the low crime rate is a big interest and then the location to where if you live in the Eclectic area you live in the center of anything you want to do recreational wise. You can go to Alex City, Birmingham, Montgomery, Auburn within an hour’s drive. And you have the capability of bicycling, boating, exercise activities, recreational activities and they’re not right in your backdoor but they’re close.
How are you going to achieve population growth?
What we’re doing is we’re just trying to provide places people can live. The typical situation that I run into on a weekly basis is people are contacting me wanting to know if there’s property for rent or homes for sale. You have quite a few people who are looking for small acreage — 3 to 5 acres of land. We are just trying to identify those areas and work with developers who specialize in those types of developments.
We’re very interested in keeping employment figures high. There are a lot of people looking for good, dependable workers. We work with several of the local areas to be sure that they have easy access to our people. Our school system is very good at preparing graduates to go out into the workforce, so we help in that way. So that’s basically what we do.