On Tuesday evening, the Auburn City Council announced the city would receive $3 million in federal funding administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Council also revealed changes to Auburn’s planning and police jurisdictions, or the area outside of the city limits in which the municipal government has jurisdiction, in order to remain compliant with new state-level legislation.
The funding, as part of the $1.5 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act passed by Congress in March 2022, would be allocated towards the construction of a new business center at the Auburn Center for Developing Industries Complex.
However, the money almost never came according to Auburn City Manager Megan McGowen Crouch.
“This is a function of our federal lobbyist, which we call federal governmental affairs, in Congressman Mike Rodgers’ office, and we got an application in thanks to our lobbyist on the last hour of the last day,” Crouch said.
According to those involved, the funding will help expand the center’s training capabilities by adding classroom training and conference room space as well as space to train on multi-axis machining, industrial automation, digitalization of manufacturing processes, and metrology among other skills.
ACDI provides startup incubator space as well as the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, which assists Auburn's existing industries in developing local workforce skills.
Auburn University's Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems, which aims to introduce advanced manufacturing systems in small and medium manufacturing businesses, will also be involved in the center.
As a result of this partnership, the ACDI expansion will make Auburn a hub for “highly technical, sophisticated jobs.”
“For the last two and a half years, we’ve been involved with the School of Engineering through the Department of Defense in advanced manufacturing training, particularly CNC machining,” Economic Development Director Phillip Dunlap said. “What we’re doing is very unique, it’s probably the most sophisticated machining center outside of NASA in the entire state.”
That expansion is part of a larger trend of growth around the Loveliest Village on the Plains, which will now operate under new guidelines regarding policing and planning outside the city limits.
Previously, the police jurisdiction of a town with a population of at least 6,000 residents could extend for three miles from the corporate limits, and the police jurisdiction of a town with less than 6,000 residents could extend for one and a half miles from the corporate limits.
The bill, which was passed by the Alabama State Legislature during its 2021 session, would allow a municipality to reduce its police jurisdiction by any half-mile increment or eliminate its police jurisdiction entirely. Revenue and police activity within the police jurisdiction were also required to be reported annually.
“The main reason that we have a police jurisdiction is to cover those adjacent areas, because of the way the city annexes, we have a lot of pockets of in and out incorporated areas,” Public Safety Director William Mathews Jr., said. “It makes sense for our police officers to continue to patrol those areas and have enforceable powers.”
In effective terms, that would mean Auburn’s current municipal police jurisdiction would be frozen at its January 2021 boundary, or three miles from the corporate limit, and not grow to include any new land annexed into the city limit in the future.
Despite the changes brought by the new legislation, it will not hinder the use of mutual aid agreements for policing between the Auburn Police Department and Lee County Sheriff’s Office near the city limits.
Additionally, municipal planning jurisdictions have been reduced from five miles to one and a half miles beyond the city limits, but they can still be changed annually if any new annexation occurs.
As city code already includes a blanket adoption of state misdemeanors, references to offenses committed within Auburn's police jurisdiction have been removed and city code changes are not required to reflect planning jurisdiction changes.
In a preliminary draft, the state legislature sought to eliminate police and planning jurisdictions entirely, although negotiations between the City of Auburn, other municipalities, the Alabama League of Municipalities and legislators resulted in a more limited scope and impact.
Additionally, the City Council awarded a roughly $600,000 contract to Floyd Service Company, Inc., to complete the traffic signal installations at the intersections of AL Highway 14 and Webster Road as well as AL Highway 14 and Will Buechner Parkway.
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Daniel Schmidt, senior in journalism, is the assistant news editor for the Auburn Plainsman.