FOLEY – Foley continues to work on infrastructure and other projects to deal with the challenges of one of the area’s fastest growing cities.
Mayor Ralph Hellmich spoke with residents at the Foley Senior Center on Tuesday to discuss city operations and upcoming projects.
The mayor said that since the 2000 census, Foley has grown from a population of 8,727 to about 25,000.
“That growth is something that is on all of our minds on how we address it,” Hellmich said, “We’ve upped a lot of standards for our infrastructure. We have better developments now coming in, but some of these things that people see that are being built right now were approved four or five years ago. It takes a lot of development time for some of these things to take place.”
Hellmich said Foley has $72.8 million budgeted for capital projects in the 2024 fiscal year. Improving traffic flow by extending city streets to provide alternate routes for north-south traffic is one priority.
He said the South Pecan Street extension is nearing completion, which will provide a north-south route from U.S. 98 south to the traffic circle on Pride Drive.
South Pecan Street could be open any second,” he said. “The last of the striping, and the signs should have gone up.”
Hellmich said most of the work to extend Juniper Street south to the intersection of Baldwin County 20 and Alabama 59 is also complete. The city is waiting on the Alabama Department of Transportation to install the mast arms needed for the traffic signals at the highway intersection.
Another project recently approved by the state is the improvement at the intersection of Baldwin County 12 and Alabama 59.
“We received a grant two and a half years ago to enlarge the County Road 12-59 intersection, add turn lanes east and west, and mast arms for resiliency,” Hellmich said. “We were ready to go to bid in January of this past year and they just released us to go to bid this month.”
He said the city is also waiting on state approval for a project to repave and widen the Foley Beach Express. The project will include adding a safety shoulder and repaving the entire route through Foley.
Foley has also increased its municipal budget for repaving city streets. Hellmich said that in the past, the city budgeted about $400,000 a year for repaving.
“We started upping our road repaving to $1 million a year,” Hellmich said. “Last year we did $1.5 million because the funds were then available.”
The mayor said the city has also increased its sidewalk construction program to add more pedestrian walkways around the city.
The city also plans recreation improvements in upcoming months.
Hellmich said plans are in the works for an indoor aquatics center to replace the swimming pool at Max Griffin Park.
“Our city has progressed from the pool that I grew up in that is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day,” he said. “We need a year-round facility and indoor facility, so we hope to be construction on that in the year ‘25..”
He said the city also plans to renovate the former National Guard armory behind City Hall and use some of the space in that building for indoor recreation.
The city is also expanding the Graham Creek Nature Reserve. The site is already the largest municipal nature reserve in Alabama with more than 600 acres of property devoted to preservation and low-impact recreation.
Hellmich said plans now in the works could double the size of the reserve.
Other improvement projects include construction of a new Public Works Department campus, which is now under construction, and a new library.
Designs are being completed on the library, which will be built next to the city dog park. Construction is expected to begin this summer.
The mayor said the city is also working to develop a strategic plan to guide growth in upcoming years. Residents can take a survey on the city website – www.cityoffoley.org – to share their thoughts and opinions about plans for Foley in the future.
The city will also hold three public meetings in February to discuss the plan.
The first meeting will be at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve Interpretive Center at 23030 Wolf Bay Drive on Wednesday, Feb. 7 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
A second meeting is scheduled at the Foley Senior Center at 304 East Rose Ave. on Thursday, Feb. 8 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The final meeting will be at the Foley United Methodist Church at 915 North Pine Street from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. That meeting will be at the church’s center The Well.