Millbrook finances strong going into 2019

Millbrook Mayor Al Kelley said the city plans to focus on increasing its population and sales tax revenue in the coming year. (Amalia Kortright/The Herald)

Millbrook Mayor Al Kelley said he is proud of the city’s financial condition entering the new year.

According to Kelley, Millbrook recently celebrated the opening of a new town hall and a new hotel, which he said is sure to bring in sales tax revenue.

In 2019, Kelley said the city is looking to expand its public safety departments, bring in new business and increase its population.

 Q. Looking back at 2018, what are you proudest of accomplishing as a mayor and council?

A. We’ve made a lot of improvements. This is the new city hall. We moved into it in June. It gives us a lot more room. It’s a beautiful setting. Across the street is our Village Green and that’s a big thing for us. Economically, one of the big things is that our big hotel that we’ve been working on for two years finally got off the ground. The Spring Hill Suites by Marriott is open in Millbrook. We did a million-dollar renovation to the intersection where it is and it looks fantastic. It opened up a tremendous amount of property for future development.

 Q. What wasn’t done this year that should have been?

A. It would be along the lines of economic development. Economic development moves so slowly, and getting some of the places landed that we wanted to come here and have been working with for two or three years just hasn’t happened yet. Financially, we’re in excellent shape and we’re doing what we need to.

 Q. What’s your personal vision for the city in 10 years?

A. Millbrook’s a unique city. We’ve got boundaries all around us. We’ve got Coosada on one side, we’re bounded by Deatsville on one side, we’re bounded by Prattville on one side and there are seven miles of flood plain on one side. I kind of envision it like a circle and we want to make everything in that circle the best we can. We want to have the best quality of life. Probably 75 percent of the people that live here go to Montgomery to work every day. What I like is when they come back, they feel safe, they feel comfortable, they’ve got parks and rec to take their kids to, they have walking trails to enjoy.

Q. What are your most important goals for the city in 2019?

A. To do anything, you have to have money. Money comes from sales tax. Cities in Alabama can only survive with sales tax. That’s just the way the law is. My top 10 goals would be to bring in seven restaurants and three more hotels, which would generate more sales tax. The more sales tax you’ve got, the more you can do in the circle. Right now, we’re in the middle of renovating our old city hall. Our economic development department, our IT department and our chamber of commerce will be housed in our old city hall, which is under renovation.

 Q. What are the most important long-term projects for the city over the next decade?

A. We want better roads. Millbrook is unique in another way: The main two roads through here are state highways. We want to work with the state to make those better and easier for our residents to get from here to their work and back home safely. It’s about the quality of life. We want more housing developments because housing developments bring retail. You can’t bring the Walmarts and things like that without the houses to sustain them.

 Q. What needs to be done in the city that has never been done before?

A. I’ve been in here 24 years and I grew up here. I’m not bragging but we’ve done a tremendous amount of things that have never been done before. Maybe bringing some kind of clean industrial facility. We don’t want the smokestack-type industry. It would be clean and bring some employers in here that would bring some jobs for our people.

 Q. Which parts of the city’s budget need to be increased and which parts need to be cut?

A. Anytime you can increase that sales tax revenue, that’s your spending money. We’d love to increase our police and our fire department even more. We’ve increased it tremendously over the years but that’s a thing that can always increase with more personnel and more equipment. We’ve decreased everything we can decrease. Our salary level for our employees years ago was extremely low. We’ve been steadily bringing that up to competitive levels with other cities. We’re trying to get the salaries up to where this policeman, fireman, street worker or utility worker doesn’t say, ‘I can go over here and make two dollars more an hour.’

 Q. What are the chances of executing these plans?

A. Excellent. We’ve continued to grow. The revenue is growing. We’ve given raises for the last 22 years. There’s not another city or government around here that has done what we’ve done.

 Q. Do you believe in term limits for the mayor and council?

A. No, I don’t. A mayor of a town, to me, is probably one of the most critical political jobs there is. A mayor is a lot different than a legislator. A mayor deals with every situation: potholes in the road, when the sewer’s stopped up. The more experience you’ve got doing that, the better off the city is. It’s a steep learning curve, especially in a larger city. I’m not a term-limits guy for anybody. I could probably justify it for a legislator but I couldn’t justify it for a mayor or a council.

 Q. What are the most significant questions you hear from your constituents?

A. Most want to know, ‘When is my road going to be paved?’ We try to get to as many streets as we can every year. There are areas of town that don’t have sewage yet, so, ‘What are the chances of expanding the sewer to our area?’ Personally, I get, ‘Are you going to run again?’ I get that every day. People want their stuff. John isn’t worried about Bill’s street but Bill is worried about Bill’s street. You have to understand people and be able to get along with them. If you can’t do something, you’ve got to tell them you can’t do something. That’s a tough part of the job.

 Q. What does the city government do well?

A. A city is a lot of working parts, all the time, that the citizen doesn’t see. We’ve got great department heads. Almost every one of them have years and years of experience doing what they’re doing. I think we do a tremendous job coordinating with each other. If this guy in this subdivision has a problem, it gets handled right away. I will always stress teamwork. Everybody works together.

 Q. If you could change anything about the city, what would it be?

A. We don’t have a downtown area and I wish Millbrook had an area similar to Wetumpka or Prattville. Millbrook is based on two state highways. There never was a downtown area with little shops and hardware stores and a little square with a cannon in it. I’ve always wanted that but there’s no way to go back 100 years and redo it.