Enterprise has experienced some internal challenges in the past year, but Mayor Bill Cooper assures that it is still living up to its mantra, “The City of Progress.”
Better yet, the city is continuing along its path of steady, and at times, unprecedented, success that began well over a decade ago, said Cooper, the former longtime District 1 city councilman who was sworn into office in 2016. Cooper became mayor after then-Mayor Kenneth Boswell resigned to take a state leadership position.
“We are obviously doing something right,” Cooper said. “People are continuing to move to our city. They are starting new businesses. Internet research companies are still ranking Enterprise highly in categories such as income, housing, education and quality of life issues like recreation and low crime rates.”
In the past year, Enterprise has been recognized by ChamberofCommerce.org as the 13th best city in Alabama. Further, Niche.com ranks Enterprise in the top one-third of best cities across America. Enterprise also gets a top one-third national ranking for low cost of living and retirement preference. Other resource lists give Enterprise high marks for low crime rates, amenities like recreational activities, diversity and increasing median income, which in 2017 was more than $54,000.
Last year, local newspapers cited 2018 U.S. Census Bureau population statistics, which showed an increase of almost 1,700 people from 2010 to 2017. Cooper said he expects the 2020 Census to show significant population growth as well if city records are an indication. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Enterprise Water Department set about 250 new water meters at residential construction sites. More than 75 permits were issued for single family dwellings through August of the past year. Cooper said the 176 residential units in a new upscale apartment complex being constructed at Camelia Commons on the city’s south side will likely also have an impact on city population.
Cooper is proud that a considerable number of retirees, including a large number of military retirees, choose Enterprise as home.
“They contribute to our community through their time, talents, skills and knowledge,” he said. “They are appreciated and valued, as are the many veterans and active duty personnel from our neighboring Fort Rucker, home of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.”
The city works closely with Fort Rucker and is a passionate friend and advocate for the post, its missions and keeping the installation intact here in its current location.
The Mayor is proud that many active duty personnel call Enterprise their temporary home while many return here to make it a permanent home.
“We work hard to provide a good quality of life that draws people to Enterprise and makes them want to stay here,” he said. “We are proud of what we have in Enterprise, like a great school system that is consistently recognized for exemplary standards, sending well-prepared graduates out into the work force or higher education institutions.”
Cooper also considers as assets the city’s existing family-owned small businesses, private franchises and large industries such as HSAA Automotive and Arista Aviation.
“We try to do what we can as a city within municipal policies and law to help our existing business be successful. And of course, working with the Wiregrass Economic Development Corporation, we are constantly trying to recruit new business and industry. We are open for business,” Cooper said, adding that Enterprise is one of the Wiregrass cities being considered by the Department of Veterans Affairs for a new veterans healthcare facility. It would employ dozens of people.
“We always seek to improve upon our assets, and work with a positive energy that moves us continually forward,” he said. “We maintain a strong commitment to our citizens.”
To accomplish that, Cooper said the city’s employees do a great job on a daily basis of tending to the needs of citizens, working to maintain and improve services, keeping the city beautifully groomed and ensuring citizens always have something to do, whether it’s coaching a youth league team or shopping for fresh produce at the Enterprise Farmers Market.
Reviewing the past year within the various city departments, Cooper said the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 was productive despite some challenging internal issues, including an audit report citing poor and untimely financial record-keeping during the past three years, along with the resignation of several finance department employees and the council-appointed city clerk.
“Like any other city, we will have unexpected difficulties from time to time,” Cooper said. “There are always issues that arise. We have and are taking steps to address any challenges that exist. I have confidence in our employees and their ability to make any necessary adjustments.”
Meanwhile, day-to-day operations as well many special projects have gone on as usual.
“Our department heads and employees have had a tremendously busy year, the Mayor said. For instance, a team of city employees and community volunteers partnered with the City Tourism Director for the rigorous process of applying to be designated as a Main Street Alabama City. Their successful effort gives Enterprise guidance from Main Street Alabama, a proven model for rebuilding commercial districts and providing new economic opportunities. The Main Street team is now in the beginning stages of implementing the extensive downtown revitalization project.
“We are proud to be part of Main Street Alabama, which was a program city leaders encouraged and believe will be a true benefit in shaping the future of downtown.”
Planning has also been underway throughout the year for celebrating the Boll Weevil Monument’s 100-year anniversary. The Centennial activities will culminate Dec. 11 with a multi-faceted celebration downtown.
Parks and Recreation
Part of the city’s responsibility is to provide events like the Centennial celebration that add to the quality of life of citizens, Cooper said. The Mayor pointed out that the Enterprise Parks and Recreation Department is a major source of amenities for citizens interested in participating in competitive sports, exercise and health programs, and who enjoy the beautiful surroundings of well-kept parks.
During the past year, the Parks and Recreation Department completed the refurbishment of the Rotary Club Playground at Johnny Henderson Park. Replacement equipment was purchased at a cost of $19,401.
In addition, a controller/regulator for the irrigation well was purchased and installed at the Softball Complex. A building to house the equipment was also constructed as part of the $13,600 project.
A project to resurface the tennis courts at Donaldson Parks is also under way. A gazebo roof at the park was replaced and as part of the city’s conservation, the Recreation Department coordinated with the Department of Public Works to grade and repair the major water erosion in the Dog Park area and parking lot at Johnny Henderson Park.
Parks and Rec personnel kept busy during the summer hosting several tournaments. More than 410 teams participated in the tournaments, bringing about 25,000 individuals into the city to add tourism dollars into the local economy.
Cooper said Parks and Rec Department employees also do the beautiful landscaping at the parks, downtown and other areas. This year, the Engineering Department also played a role in the aesthetics downtown by adding new flower baskets to the decorative light poles downtown and hanging banners on the poles as well downtown and at major intersections throughout the city. The street banners and the striking oversized banners hanging at city hall commemorate the Boll Weevil Centennial and the Alabama Bicentennial of Statehood.
Cooper said the Engineering Department also assisted the Coffee County Commission and the Enterprise City School Board in relocating the adult day care facilities to the rear of the old Coppinville Junior High School building. The move allowed the Enterprise and Elba day care programs to merge and have access to a bigger facility.
Airport improvements were a focus of Engineering Department efforts during the past year. One of the projects under way at this time is installation of a new beacon, Cooper said, adding that another helpful project was improving the outdoor activity field next door to the Civic Center on Highway 167 North. The electrical system was upgraded and three new light poles were added before the annual Credit Union Car Sale in May.
The city’s infrastructure and services are always a concern to city officials, Cooper said, so the Water Department and Department of Public Works tackled some major projects.
The Street Department, which is under the Public Works umbrella, accomplished three different extensive storm drain upgrades. Cooper said the drain pipe was decades old, was rusted out or rotted, and had been causing problems for residents and the Street Department as well.
About 200 feet of pipe was replaced on Omega Circle. Another 300 feet was replaced on Wimbledon Drive. About 900 feet of pipeline was installed on Iroquois Street. It was upgraded from 8-inch to 12-inch piping to improve the water flow to the designated discharge areas.
Water lines that were even older than the storm drain lines are being replaced in what is to be a two-part Water Board project. In Phase 1, Water Board employees are now working the Park Avenue/Pledger Street area.
The water mains on streets such as Myrtlewood Drive, East Lee, McIntosh, Shellfield Road, Martin, Mixson, Paschal, Alberta, Feagin, Gibson, Thompson, McCormick, Whitehurst and Mill Avenue were some of the first streets to be paved in Enterprise history. The mains were from 80- to 100 years old. Cooper said the 2-inch galvanized lines were replaced by 4-inch or 6-inch lines. The project is about 60 percent complete. Other streets that will have new and improved lines will be Hutchinson, McCormick, Sanders, Cook, and Forehand. The second phase of the project will begin soon.
Also beginning soon will be the replacement of the 500,000-gallon city water tank on the north side of Boll Weevil Circle. The dramatically growing northeast part of the city has caused an equally dramatic increase in water demand, so the 500,000-gallon tank will be replaced by a 1.5 million gallon tank. The tank will also utilize a pump capable of delivering 1,000 gallons per minute. The current pump is made for pumping 650 gallons per minute.
One well has already received major rehabilitation attention during the past year. The pump and piping were replaced at Well #12 at Hunter Ridge. Work will begin soon on Well #10 at the Enterprise Cotton Gin. The pump will be pulled and inspected. Any equipment or repairs deemed necessary as a result of the inspection will be done at that time.
The ground storage tank on Highway 167 also received some outside enhancements. The Enterprise High School Wildcat Emblem was added.
The Mayor commended Enterprise’s police and fire departments for their efforts to keep crime rates low and to reduce the potential danger within the city.
The Fire Department purchased and put into service a new fire engine a few months ago. It is equipped with a Fire Rescue Fire Body with the capability to carry not only the necessary fire equipment but also emergency medical supplies and equipment used to rescue victims from vehicle accidents or other incidents requiring operations. The new engine also has Class A and Class B Foam tanks which will allow firefighters to apply the foam applications faster.
A 14-year-old vehicle used by shift supervisors to respond to calls along with the engines was replaced with a new Chevy Tahoe with 4-Wheel Drive capability. Officials said the new vehicle will be much more dependable in emergency situations.
Six bay doors were also replaced at the new Central Fire Station, making the clearance for the newer equipment acceptable.
In the Police Department, all patrol officers were equipped with state-of-the-art Axon body cameras. According to statistics, body cameras help reduce incidents of resistance and complaints, increase officer safety and provide valuable evidence.
The PD hired two new school resources for Enterprise City Schools and equipped them with two new vehicles.
Five new marked patrol cars were purchased, and a safe area with cameras was created in the parking lot at city hall for Internet sales and exchanges.
Cooper said the overall state of the city is good and will get better. He thanked everyone, especially the citizens, for helping to make Enterprise a special place to live and work.