The City of Athens greeted 2015 with winter weather events that demonstrated the kindness of our employees and community.
A three-day cold snap from Jan. 7-9 resulted in TVA seeing peak demands across the area as temperatures dropped to the single digits. Old Man Winter hit again on Feb. 19 when TVA reported the third highest all time energy day in TVA history with 694 GWh used. This also set a new February usage record as temps hovered around seven degrees.
On Feb. 20, a winter storm brought .2 inches of ice and ½ inches of snow to Athens, according to WAFF’s Brad Travis. Interstate 65 shut down with more than 150 motorists abandoning their vehicles. Athens Police, the Mayor’s Office and Central Church of Christ volunteers worked to get stranded motorists to the church for food and shelter after hotels and restaurants at the Interstate-65/U.S.72 exit became full. APD rescued a basketball team from Middle Georgia State University when the team bus became stranded. Players were walking along the interstate toward Athens in the middle of the night, which led to a story on Good Morning America. The team sent APD gifts of appreciation such as autographed basketballs and footballs.
“We were caught a little off guard, not realizing how much ice we would get and that it was going to paralyze the city, but it ended up bringing out the best in our department and community,” Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said. “Through the duration of the event and subsequent events, we had people volunteering to help from our business community to our church community. We had officers who didn’t want to go home when their shift ended because they were enjoying helping others. This was a community-wide response that highlighted how special the city is, and how giving our citizens and employees are to others.”
After recovering from that weekend storm, seven inches of snow hit Athens on Feb. 25, according to WAFF. The snow level throughout Limestone County ranged from 4.5 to 10 inches. City Public Works crews plowed roads and used sand on bridges throughout the night to help clear paths for traffic. Central Church of Christ again opened its doors to stranded motorists.
Before spring could arrive, March brought another winter event on March 5-6 when freezing rain and sleet hit on a Thursday night and left slick spots for motorists Friday morning. There were five wrecks in the city, some with injuries.
Winter weather wasn’t the only item making headlines. January 2015 brought the announcement of new jobs in the area. Polaris announced it was building a new manufacturing facility in the Greenbrier area in Huntsville-annexed Limestone County. Athens Utilities is supplying electricity for the project, and the city committed $200,000 to help lure the company and its 2,000 jobs and potential for suppliers. A member of the management team has already purchased a home in Athens.
In October, two more industrial announcements made headlines. Michigan-based Shape Corp. announced it is building a $24 million plant in Athens and creating 170 jobs. The plant will locate on a 34-acres site at Breeding Industrial Park.GE Aviation also announced it will locate a $200 million complex in Greenbrier in Huntsville-annexed Limestone County and create 300 jobs. Athens Utilities will provide electricity.
“We talk to industrial prospects on a regular basis now, and that shows how hot this area is and how lucky we are to be in the North Alabama area,” Mayor Ronnie Marks said.
Those outside the City of Athens have noticed the attractiveness of our city. Here are some of the accolades from 2015:
- NerdWallet ranked Athens the 18th best place in Alabama for homeownership
- Movoto blog named Athens the 7th safest city in Alabama based on the FBI’s 2013 uniform crime report
- NerdWallet ranked Athens No. 2 among 100 cities in the U.S. with a rising middle class.
- Niche.com listed Athens as No. 11 for Best Towns to Live In in Alabama, scoring the city high in housing, education, safety and overall community.
- NerdWallet named Athens 20th best city in Alabama for first-time homebuyers.
- USA News and World Report gave Athens High School a Bronze national ranking
- SACS said Athens City Schools surpassed every national average of their ratings. With 400 being the best possible score, Athens scored 317.07. The national average is 282.45.
- Newsweek magazine released its rankings of U.S. high schools that provide the best chances for post-graduation success for students living below the poverty line. Athens High was one of two Alabama schools to make the list of 500. Athens ranked No. 361. Athens also received a Gold Star Equity rating, meaning students classified as disadvantaged performed at or above state averages in standardized reading and math tests.
By: Holly Hollman, City of Athens Communications Specialist