State of the City Address 2018

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Future Fairhope [Booklet]

State of the City 2018 by the Numbers [PDF]

Our town was founded on a utopian vision in 1894 that simultaneously encourages individual initiative and promotes cooperative ventures and attitudes. Almost 125 years later, the City of Fairhope is a thriving community due, in part, to measures taken to envision our future, plan accordingly and take fiscal responsibility. Toward that end, since 2016 the City has:

• Separated the co-mingling of City and utilities’ funds;
• Increased cash account balances by 24%, or approximately $10 million dollars;
• Filled critical personnel needs to manage Fairhope’s surging population growth; and
• Decreased City Debt by 23% and Utility Debt by over 10%.

A breakdown of our revenue for FY 2017 is:

 General Fund
 FY 2017
 Gas Fund
 Electric Fund
 Water Fund
 Impact Fee Fund
 Gas Tax


City Audit

On March 26, 2018, the City of Fairhope received the results of our audit for financials through September 30, 2017 by Warren Averett CPA and Advisors, the fifth largest CPA firm in the southeast with 800 employees in 15 offices, providing services in 15 industry practice groups, including government entities.

The audit presentation is included here for direct review. A summary of highlights between 2016 and 2017 include:

-- The City’s assets increased, liabilities decreased and our net financial position increased by 8.36%, more than $12 million.

-- The largest portion of the City’s liability is long-term debt at 50%.

-- City revenue increased $1.6 million (2.47%) and expenses decreased $463 K (.82%). Revenue increased in all categories, including local taxes, licenses and permits, fines and forfeitures, and intergovernmental payments that represent the greatest increase in revenue at 26.28%. Ninety percent of tax revenue is comprised of sales taxes (55%) and property taxes (45%), with lodging, liquor and other taxes at 10%.

-- Airport revenue soared at 123.5% with only a slight increase in expenses at 5.25% Library expenses (up 5.96%) slightly outpaced revenue (up 5.37%).


While the audit was positive and promising, we will continually strive for areas where we can improve the City’s financial position, including:

--Upgrading the City’s depreciation software that will create better accuracy and efficiency in the future; and

--Establishing an Electric Fund allowance for uncollectable accounts. While net revenues for utilities were up in general, the Electric Fund was down slightly. In addition, due to billing and meter errors, there was a 9.3% unaccounted loss in natural gas.

Our goal is to eliminate City debt and further reduce Utility debt 35% by 2020, while investing the funds necessary to provide the quality infrastructure and municipal services Fairhope residents expect.

We secured over $4.2 million in grant funding and programming thanks to processes started in 2017. These grant programs were identified to offset costs and address vital needs in our city. They have provided us not only with vital capital, but also allowed us to receive invaluable input from experts from around the country on matters such as green infrastructure, walkability, working waterfronts, and resilience strategies to protect our environment and improve our quality of life.

A breakdown of those grants:

 306A Coastal Zone Management Program  Alabama Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR)  $20,000  Storm Drain Pollution Control Education/Outreach Project (Storm Drain Markers)
 Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA)  Gulf of Mexico Alliance and NOAA  $45,000  Phase 2- Stormwater Master Plan
 Transportation Planning Grant (PL)  Baldwin County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)  $30,000  Downtown Traffic Calming and Wayfinding Project
 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP)  Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA)  $185,820  Flood acquisition and demolition
 Transportation Alternative Program (TAP)  Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT)  $400,000  Multi-Use Path along US 98 and Highway 104
 Transportation Alternative Program (TAP)  Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT)  $400,000  Sidewalks- CR13- Manley Road to Sedgefield Drive
 Transportation Alternative Program (TAP)  Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT)  $306,614  Sidewalks- CR44 from Founders Drive to CR13 and Manley Road
 Transportation Alternative Program (TAP)  Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT)  $640,000  Sidewalks- South Section Street and Battles Road
 Recreational Trails Program (RTP)  Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA)  $399,970  North Beach Park Recreational Trail
 Clean Vessel Act  ADEM  $6,431  Pump Out Grant
 Safety Grant  Department of Transportation (DOT)  $1,200,000  New Roundabout
 Resilient and Clean Marina Technical Assistance Grant  EPA    Technical Assistance
 Nature Tourism Technical Assistance Grant  EPA    Technical Assistance

The recent award of almost $18 million dollars in RESTORE ACT funding by the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which Fairhope applied for in 2017, will be used for four major projects:

  • $10 million, 5-year sewer upgrade that will greatly reduce the pollutant load and discharges to Mobile Bay;
  • $650,000 Fairhope Area Community-based Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which will serve as a guide for all future planning, ensure responsible growth, and protect the environment;
  • $1 million Sanitary Sewer Overflow Prevention Plan that will develop a solution to prevent sewer overflows on the Eastern Shore; and
  • $6.2 million Working Waterfront Restoration and Redevelopment project, including bluff stabilization and shoreline protection.
The Department also secured funding for a BRATS (Baldwin Regional Area Transit System) Hub in downtown Fairhope and to improve our City parking garage and alleyways. It’s a facelift that will both increase use of the garage and present an improved aesthetic that better represents our City.

We also designed and launched the first in a series of bike racks that will be installed around the City thanks to the valuable input and four years of hard work by the Bike-Pedestrian Committee. And a plan was completed to address pedestrian safety in downtown Fairhope and provide much-needed wayfinding signage for our residents and visitors alike. This is another visible sign of progress that will endure for years to come.

South fairhope Community Action Plan

James P. Nix Center

Completed to Date
  • Facilitated 8 community meetings between January 2017 and February 2018
  • Individual meetings with City and County Staff and other community stakeholders
  • Community-driven survey completed December 2017. Results have been analyzed and geocoded based on reported addresses for use in GIS.
Overview of Survey Findings
  • 23% response rate. (There are an estimated 516 households in the survey area based on a windshield survey/housing count on 10/17/2017) This is considered excellent given that a normal response rate is between 10% and 15%. It is important to note that the survey was not conducted based on a random sample from the survey area, but instead on a self-selecting basis. 
As such, the survey results do not directly align with current Census data. In addition, the Census boundaries do not coincide with the study area making comparison even more difficult.
  • Methodology: All residents in the survey area were mailed a postcard with a link allowing them to complete the survey online and inviting them to attend an evening meeting at Youth Rotary Club to complete the survey if they could not do so online. Hard-copy surveys were also distributed by local churches, organizations and businesses. Volunteers went door-to-door on Saturday, December 2nd.
  • Homeownership: 73% Own vs. 26% Rent. The average tenure is 29 years, but this is an understatement because many respondents put “lifetime” or gave a number with a plus sign; neither of which could be factored into the average.
  • 36% reported living within the City of Fairhope while 58% reported living in Baldwin County. 6% did not know which jurisdiction they were in.
  • Household Make-up: 43% with Seniors, 42% with Children under 18, and 25% with Physical Disabilities
  • Voting: 90% reported being registered to vote and 8% reported not being registered to vote (3% did not know if they are registered). Of those registered to vote, 87% reported voting regularly. 75% of the County residents responded that they would like to be able to vote on Fairhope City issues and elections. 8% of County residents did not want to vote on Fairhope city issues and elections. 5% were indifferent.
  • Housing Needs *open-ended question: The top reported housing needs could be classified as repairs and included roofs, windows, floors, fortification measures and HVAC. These were closely followed by the need for accessibility retrofits including ramps and railings. It was also reported that many, particularly the elderly, could use assistance with regular maintenance and upkeep.
  • Community Needs *open-ended question: The top reported needs centered on issues of pedestrian and transportation-related safety. Requests included more sidewalks, lighting, traffic calming measures and additional bus stops. Other requests included community clean- up/beautification efforts and more stores including grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Community Priorities: An initial list of community priorities was determined based on input from the Community Advisory Committee and the City of Fairhope. Survey respondents were asked to rate the topic areas from 1 (lowest priority) to 5 (highest priority) and were given the option to write in and rank other topic areas they feel are important. The scores below represent the sum of the scores given by all respondents.

 Opportunities for Youth  507
 Employment/Cost of Living  474
 Representation in Government  473
 Infrastructure (sidewalks, lighting, streets, et.)  469
 Current Housing Conditions  451
 Drainage & Flooding  442
 Services (Police, fire, water, sewer, etc.)  407
 Annexation (becoming part of the City of Fairhope)  406
 Growth of Surrounding Area  400
Best Means of Communication for Future Outreach: Churches (60), mail (27), barbershops (20), and Rotary Youth Club (15). Other methods including email, phone, social media, and local news/radio each received less than 10 responses.

Based on these responses, we have spoken with several nonprofits who can help meet some of the needs expressed including: ES Chamber of Commerce (Opportunities for Youth/Employment – also scheduling visit on Saturday, May 5th for Mayor and SLBB to attend New Zion youth engagement discussion as part of Path to Peace), Habitat for Humanity Gulf Coast and Baldwin County, Fairhope United Methodist Church, Ecumenical Ministries and several community activists.

Next Steps:

On the community side of our tireless stormwater management efforts, we are implementing a stormwater education program for our students and the public about ways to keep our storm drains clear. This effort to help us all become better stewards of Mobile Bay, includes installing Fairhope’s first storm drain markers around the City.

It might be said that the State of the City mirrors the state of the City’s trees! And it is good! We are proudly a Tree City and our Urban Forest is considered one of our greatest assets. For the first time, the City has completed an i-Tree Ecosystem Analysis with the following key findings:

• Number of trees: 801,900 – approximately 50 trees for every citizen

• Tree cover: 40.8 %

• Most common species of trees: Water Oak, Tallowtree, Loblolly Pine
• Pollution removal: 139.4 tons/year (a value of $1.12 million/year)

• Oxygen production: 16.92 thousand tons/year

• Avoided runoff: 358.1 thousand cubic yards/year (a value of $646 thousand/year)
• 14.2% of our trees are considered invasive species of the Urban Forest

Residents and visitors continue to increase participation in our attractions, special events and sports:

Fairhope Docks
After 30 years of leasing this exceptional asset across the waters from the Fairhope Yacht Club, we have joined thousands of cities around the country by assuming management of our City-owned marina and are actively redeveloping and redefining its functions to best serve residents, travelers and commercial fishermen. “Fairhope Docks” is being re-envisioned and led by Captain Drew Craze who has the expertise and experience to bring our marina back to life for modern usage. Fairhope Docks is well on its way to becoming another jewel along the Eastern Shore.

Fairhope Museum of History
The City’s history museum tells the rich story of Fairhope, and hosted six large-scale events in FY2017, including 22 school classes, 32 bus tours, and a total of 24,000 visitors. Stories from some of our most colorful citizens are collected and shared with residents and visitors during “Tea for Two.”

James P. Nix Senior Center
This active site for seniors counted 1118 dues-paying members last year with 24,000 member and guest visits. The Center was rented for 55 special events and continues to host on an ongoing basis, 48 weekly events, 15 monthly events and 6 annual events. The Center staff strives to make its members feel welcome and part of a family, and continually looks for new and interesting programs to keep the membership engaged and interested.

Our Walkable Community
The walkability and cycling opportunities in Fairhope are second to none in southern towns and are the result of foresight and planning. We continued to expand them and make them safer with a $2 million grant awarded to our Economic and Community Development Department for 5 different sidewalks, multi-use pathways and recreational trails to be established in different areas of Fairhope, as well as a pedestrian safety and wayfinding initiative for our downtown.

Special Events
Over 40 city-produced and -supported events brought tens of thousands of people to the streets of Fairhope to enjoy our beautiful city, while generously supporting our local economy, contributing close to $9 million to our sales and lodging tax revenue alone.

Tennis opportunities abound for our residents at the Mike Ford Tennis Center. Last year, we held five major tournaments, including four USTA-sanctioned (United States Tennis Association) tournaments and one Fairhope Tennis Association tournament.

In 2018, we are fortunate to host the USTA Southern Senior/Adult Hard Court Championships in Fairhope, which is one of the strongest senior tournaments in the South and in the US. Our site also hosts free play days, socials and mixers, USTA Junior Team Tennis Leagues, USTA and BATA (Bay Area Tennis Association) Adult Leagues, Morning & Evening Leagues, High School Tennis Leagues, and Coaching Certification Classes.

The Mike Ford Tennis Center also hosts weekly programs for both Junior and Adult players. In 2017, we held:

Junior Classes: 200 juniors attended our classes last year, including:
• Tiny Tots (4-6 years old)
• Future Stars (7-10 years old)
• Level 1&2 (10-18 years old)
• Level 3 (USTA tournament players and high school players)
• Summer Camps

Adult Classes: 150 adults attended our tennis programs, including:
• Apprentice Tennis (beginner classes)
• Cardio Tennis
• Open Clinic (intermediate/advanced players)

We had 17,592 visits to our soft courts last year and membership was up more than 200% from the prior year. Purchased day passes also increased (from 1,352 in 2016 to 1,593 last year). With an additional16,250 visits to our hard courts in 2017, we hosted a total of 33,842 single player visits to our Center!

Outlook for 2018 and 2019
We estimate additional players will join as members and form league teams at the Mike Ford Tennis Center. Fairhope Christian school will begin playing their high school matches at the Center in the 2018/2019 season, working around the current schedule of the Fairhope High School Tennis Team. We also estimate maintaining or increasing our numbers for junior and adult players attending our tennis programs and tournaments.

Soccer and Ball Fields
In 2017, we opened our new soccer complex, featuring nine full-sized fields and the latest lighting technology, which has enabled us to host a growing number of large tournaments. Our ball fields are bursting at the seams with over 700 youth and 150 coaches! The Recreation Department, Electric Department and Public Works all assisted the Youth Baseball League in building a 33 x 75-foot covered batting cage with lights.

Quail Creek, our municipal golf course, saw a whopping 35,000 rounds of golf played last year on our 18-hole course and we are on track to host even more rounds in the coming year. As one of the most active municipal golf courses in the state, we are striving to become THE municipal golf course in Alabama with the professional leadership of new PGA Golf Pro Jeffrey Marks. In order to accomplish this, we are upgrading our facilities, and by Fall 2018 we will have completed Phase I of our clubhouse renovation. In 2017, Quail Creek Golf Course counted 255 members, hosted 250 League Days, and 20 Corporate Outings and Group Events.

Recreation Center and Pool
Our City’s Recreation Center and Pool are robust with activities and opportunities for all ages to be active. In 2017, we offered:
• 28 group fitness classes a week (morning and evening);
• Pickleball 5 days a week, and also hosted an annual tournament with 60 participants;
• Youth Basketball, which had record attendance with 58 teams and 430 participants;
• "Summer of Fun Camp" in June and July;
• Monthly “Lunch & Learns” with various topics, including nutrition, weight loss, and reading grocery store labels;
• Flu shots, blood pressure screenings, vein screenings, and bone density scans throughout the year;
• The Pool for three different Swim Teams throughout the year (Youth Team with 300 youth, Masters Swim Team, and the High School Team with approximately 100 youth; and
• The Pool for local summer camps and birthday parties throughout year.

Police Department
Our heroes in blue strive daily to increase engagement with the community, and where they have really excelled is in engagement with our youth. From “Shop with a Cop” and “Back to School with Blue,” to mentoring at the Rotary Youth Club and participating in the Walking School Bus, our officers are a visible representation of safety and security. The addition of two new resource officers in our schools makes our City’s commitment to the security of our youth even more tangible.

Fire Department
As our City continues growing, the demands on our fire department grow in unison. In 2017, our Department ran a record 1,029 calls for service, including for fires, emergency management services, alarm activations, natural gas leaks, and others. Our 54-person staff boasts 43 firefighters who are, at minimum, certified volunteer firefighters requiring more than 160 hours of training in all aspects of firefighting through the Alabama Fire College. Our goal is to have all of our members certified.

Public Works Department

The ever-busy Public Works Department highlights for 2017, include:

• New landscaping at County Road 13 and Gayfer Avenue Roundabout;
• New pineapple guava trees planted on Fels Avenue;
• More than 300 evergreen trees planting for screening purposes;
• More than 200 Blue Point Junipers and 100 Black Dragon Cryptomerias planted; and
• More than 300 new overstory trees, in a variety of species, planted at subdivisions in coordination with developers to avoid homogenization.

Public Utilities
This year the City also begins a five-year project to upgrade our gas and electrical utilities. Upgrades to the City’s infrastructure and municipal services are in response to explosive growth. The latest census figures indicate that Fairhope is the fastest-growing city in the fastest-growing county in the state. Plus, Fairhope is, again, one of the “Top Ten Small Towns in the South,” as rated by Southern Living magazine. City and County leaders agree that cooperation on infrastructure, responsible growth and managing sprawl is essential to maintaining the quality of life that we love and that draws others to us. Our public utilities have been working tirelessly around the clock to keep up with the growth of new residents and visitors. Highlights include:

The Electric Department will begin a three-year effort to improve equipment and add capacity to the electric distribution system. The project will eventually replace two substations with a new one, and upgrade three more. This project will improve our capacity for growth and provide new, more reliable, equipment with an estimated cost of just over $9 million. The Department will also perform an evaluation to assess the condition of each power pole this year. We plan to have a number assigned to each pole and begin taking inventory of all the devices on each pole for improved asset management.

The Water Department has contracted Utility Service to paint the Fairhope Avenue Elevated Storage Tank to keep it in good repair. Our contractor required that cellular providers remove their phone antennas and find temporary alternatives in order to paint the tank, which may have caused some disruption in service to our residents.

The Wastewater Department will be working on projects to improve sewer transmission capacity where the growth surrounding the city has begun to stretch the limits of this infrastructure. We will also be working to rehabilitate the older portions of the sewer system, comprised mostly of clay pipe and brick manholes, where we find breaches in this system that allow stormwater to enter the wastewater system and cause overflows during heavy rain events. Two of the planned projects will be quite visible: 1) The first project will be the Church Street transmission system upgrade, that will occur on Church Street from Oak Avenue to Fels Avenue. 2) The second project will run from North Section Street at Bayou Drive to Fairwood Blvd and on to Fairhope Avenue where it will end at Ingleside Street. The City of Fairhope will use this opportunity to improve drainage and replace any cast iron gas mains while we are in the right-of-way. We will also perform any sewer rehabilitation work that is needed and consider moving the overhead power to underground where it is feasible. We highly anticipate the delivery of a new video system to be used in our sewer rehabilitation work that will give us a visual record of the condition of each section of gravity sewer in Fairhope. We will also be investigating airport property for a possible decentralized sewer plant where we could accept wastewater from up to 1,500 homes, removing this load from the downtown system and disposing of the treated effluent in the ground as opposed to our waters.

Planning Department

To ensure responsible and logical growth throughout our planning jurisdiction, our Planning Department reviewed ordinances with the aim of increasing thoughtful planning before permitting. With the new $4 million in grant funding secured by our Economic and Community Development Department, we will focus on improvements to pedestrian safety, building the new BRATS hub in downtown Fairhope, and a roundabout at the dangerous intersection by the Fairhope flower clock. By expanding the Central Business District, walkability and reinvestment in downtown are increased. Sidewalk expansion and wayfinding signage will make our community even more accessible. Design improvements to our parking garage and alleyways will lead pedestrians to shopping and restaurants.

Building Department
It will be no surprise that our explosive growth in Fairhope has made 2017 one of the busiest yet for our hardworking building department. Last year, alone, the staff:
• Issued 5234 permits;
• Performed 10,553 forma inspections;
• Collected a total of $1,270,494 in permit and inspection fees, not including Impact Fees or utility tap fees; and
• Oversaw 1175 total commercial and residential construction projects, totaling $185,651,777 in construction value.
Communications with our residents is improving as we find new and better alternatives to ensure each resident has access to information in the way they prefer. Communication will be increased, and transparent communication between public servants and residents of Fairhope will also be furthered by the introduction of new processes and tools that include:

• An updated, more user-friendly website;
• Increased text, e-mail, print and social media communications;
• Livestreaming and recording of all meetings; and
• An online public map viewer of planned developments.

City of Fairhope Everbride Notification System here