Recently Mayor Marks gave his first State of the City address for 2015 at a Rotary Club luncheon. He used the book “Get Off The Bus,” which we have used here as the backdrop for a few “Ronnies” as the theme for his presentation, and while the authors of Get Off The Bus geared their thoughts toward inspiring seniors to re-think retirement as it is classically practiced, the Mayor encouraged the Rotarians to remember that they have an invitation as well as a responsibility to stay engaged in the direction of the Athens “bus,” and be involved in making the ride smooth. The three main points, after all was said and done regarding “driving” the economy, providing public safety, improving quality of life, education, and government are these: don’t retire from life, continue to contribute to your community, and search for opportunities to serve.
All of Athens knows that physically the literal roads have not been smooth when it comes to tearing them up in order to update the sewage system, with the annoying closing of streets, and necessary re-routing of traffic. There have been literal bumps. However, anyone who has ever been involved in living through a remodel knows that it’s always messy, even maddening, but worth it in the end.
One place where the “bus” has travelled a road that will make things smoother for our disabled youth is in the form of the recently awarded grant for the All Kids’ Park in the Sportsplex. The park will be designed to be wheelchair accessible, and the equipment in “the Fort” will be updated. All Kids’ is being made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), and the City will contribute $61,500 in order to complete the $111,500 upgrade. The Youth Commissioners are also working on a DEKKO grant to provide shade structures for the park, which will be most welcome on a hot Alabama summer’s day.
The “bus” has travelled to some new, distinctive, and positive places. Athens has been voted the seventh safest city in all of Alabama. The Athens and Hartselle school systems are the only ones in Limestone, Morgan and Lawrence Counties to score above the state/national reading standards on ACT Aspire. We are the 65th fastest growing county in the United States, rated the 9th best in Alabama by AL.com, and were chosen as the 3rd best business-friendly city in the state by the Alabama Policy Institute. Additionally, Athens High School was rated the 13th best in Alabama by U.S. News and World Report.
And, there are new trails, (or rather roads) that the bus is going to have to travel. What are we going to decide about building new schools in order to protect our eastern border from getting eroded by Huntsville and Madison, as well as make us more marketable to the forecasted surge in new population to our area? What is our responsibility in building storm shelters in our city and county? Who pays? What’s fair?
There are always those who will complain about everything about the bus, its color, the seats, who’s at the wheel, and its direction. But our Mayor is determined to have our “bus” be the best there is, and that, literally, is what makes Ronnie roll.
Don’t forget the Black History Month Celebration on Friday, Feb 6th at 6:30 in the Beasley Center.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner