On Friday, the Opelika Chamber of Commerce hosted Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller for his seventh annual Mayoral Address. Chamber of Commerce members and sponsors were invited to the luncheon held at The Bottling Plant event center.
Fuller is currently serving his fifth consecutive term as mayor of Opelika. He was voted into the Opelika City Council in 2000 and has been mayor since 2004.
Fuller began by thanking East Alabama Medical Center CEO Laura Grill and all of EAMC’s staff for their handling of COVID-19.
Fuller announced that Opelika budgeted to receive $128.7 million in taxes in 2020, but the City actually received over $133 million.
The City saw $1.15 billion in capital investments since 2010, with $74.2 million in 2020, Fuller said. 2,380 new jobs were created since 2010, with 183 being created in 2020. The new jobs from the past year were created in existing industries within the area.
“[Opelika] is a regional retail destination and a place where opportunities for personal career growth are [bountiful],” Fuller said. “Folks will move to a place for a good-paying job and great schools. We’re fortunate to have all of these other amenities, but a good-paying job and good schools, that’ll do the trick.”
Last year, Opelika annexed 130 acres into the City’s limits, including land owned by Weyerhaeuser that was planned to be developed into a quarry. Annexation for the quarry land was passed by the state Senate and the state House of Representatives.
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Fuller announced that $30 thousand in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds were awarded to 16 individuals and two small businesses.
Opelika Power Services added over 300 new customers last year. Fuller said this is especially important to Opelika residents since OPS is resident-owned and has been for over 100 years.
Fuller announced that Opelika will begin a new anti-littering campaign in April. The program will use the slogan, ‘Don’t be an Ope-loser,’ and will lead up to a Slam Dunk Junk event. Littering has been a problem over the past year, Fuller said. Inmates have not been cleaning roadside litter due to COVID-19 protocols.
Fuller said that the Opelika Police Department responded to a total of 89,720 calls in 2020, which is a three percent increase from the previous year. There was a 26% decrease in serious crimes, however. The Opelika Fire Department responded to a total of 5,367 calls, with 30 of which being structure fires.
“This past year has cast a dark cloud over the public’s perception of law enforcement nationally,” Fuller said. “Officers will be going through additional de-escalation training and developing more community-oriented policing.”
Fuller said that Opelika will not require masks in government buildings after the statewide mask mandate expires on April 9, but they are encouraged.
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