Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller gave his sixth annual Mayoral Address to the Opelika Chamber of Commerce on Friday, giving updates on the city’s projects from 2019.
In the beginning of his speech, Fuller reminded residents that the 2020 U.S. Census will take place in March of this year. Alabama needs as much participation as possible to keep from losing any seats in Congress or any federal funding, Fuller said.
Fuller then talked about how he belives education is important to the city, citing an application for five new pre-K classrooms.
“Nothing is more important than educating our children,” Fuller said. “We’ve been continuing to work with Southern Union. Our community college is a strong asset for business and industry and is a great value [for students].”
Fuller said that the city also plans to invest in infrastructure and technology in 2020. There are plans to install motion-activated streetlights that would save on energy, Fuller said. The city is also conducting research going into wireless sensors to be put into infrastructure, monitoring anything from traffic congestion to air quality.
The city will also expand its database of online maps, providing information to residents and becoming more of a "smart city." Free wifi has been installed in all city properties, allowing both residents and city workers to access the internet.
For much of his address, Fuller reviewed what 2019 was like for Opelika — in business, city government and city services.
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Fuller noted that in 2019, Opelika had $127.6 million in capital investments from businesses and added 423 new jobs. Throughout the year, the city earned $33.2 million in sales tax.
One of the city's projects in 2019 was the construction of facility improvements to meet standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This included 60 sidewalk ramps, increasing handicapped parking and performing multiple building renovations. The city will continue to work towards being fully ADA compliant, Fuller said.
Fuller spoke about a new humanitarian project in the city, the Vets Choose Opelika program, which aims to help veterans readjust to civilian life.
Then Fuller described his satisfaction with the Opelika Sportsplex in 2019 by quoting James Brown: “I feel good."
Fuller finished his speech by explaining Opelika’s ongoing battle with the granite quarry planned to be built just outside city limits.
“[The quarry] will be a serious quality-of-life issue,” Fuller said after his speech. “Right now, that is on the front burner for me and other city officials.”
Fuller continued to explain that the quarry has the potential to pollute Opelika’s drinking water, pollute the air, decrease home values, decrease traffic safety and close Storybook Farm. Fuller encouraged residents to write a letter to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
Fuller joined the Opelika City Council in 2000 and started his first term as mayor in 2004. He is the first mayor in Opelika to serve four terms, and he will run for a fifth in August.
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