Howell School renovation

JAY HARE/DOTHAN EAGLE

Construction workers work inside the first floor of the old Howell School building. The historic building is being renovated for Howell School Senior Apartments.

Judging by the priority list officials created in the Dothan City Commission’s annual strategic planning sessions, the City of Dothan experienced a productive 2018.

Of the eight “top” priorities the commission established for itself in February, three have been accomplished while work on the other five is underway. Additionally, work continues on some of the commission’s “high” priorities, while city employees finished some major goals as well.

Every year, the commission meets with city department heads, the city manager, and consultant Lyle Sumek to formulate an order for the several projects the municipality could address that year. At the conclusion of each session, the commission identifies its “top,” or highest, priorities for itself and the city departments, and then some “high” priorities for itself and city employees.

Below is a recap of the top goals the commission set for itself and what was accomplished:

>> The creation of a communications officer position and hiring someone for the role – COMPLETE. Melinda McClendon, a former Houston County Commissioner, began her role as the community relations officer in October. She organizes the city’s communications with the public and media.

>> Creating a customer service evaluation process for city services – IN PROGRESS. Mayor Mark Saliba said two city employees have given responsibility for this project and have been analyzing several options of how to best solicit feedback from customers of the city’s services. He expects this to appear on the priority list again following the 2019 strategic planning session, though a system could be in place sometime in the new year.

>> Hiring a new city manager – IN PROGRESS. Longtime city manager Mike West announced his retirement just days before the 2018 strategic planning sessions. Sumek informed commissioners the hiring process could take nine months. City commissioners winnowed the candidate list to two in November, but Saliba said the governing body has recently re-opened the search to see if any other potential candidates would be interested.

>> Continued progress on the Howell School project – COMPLETE. Ground has been broken on the project to renovate and salvage one of Dothan’s oldest buildings in late October. While construction on what will be senior living apartments continues, the city commission has essentially finished all of its responsibilities with regard to the launch of the project.

>> Continued efforts to institute an adaptive traffic signalization system – IN PROGRESS. The city commission authorized the purchase of the first installment of necessary equipment for this project in August. The 29 signal cabinets mark the first of potentially four installments that will enable the city in building a “smart” traffic system that communicates with other signals in real-time, ensuring more efficient traffic flow.

>> Determining the direction of improvements to the Honeysuckle Road corridor and designing those elements – IN PROGRESS/COMPLETE. The commission authorized the expenditure of almost $2 million to two engineering firms for the design of this project in September. The design process will take about a year to finish. From there, the commission will still need to make a decision on how to proceed with the redesign of the thoroughfare – with available funding and costs weighing heavily in those discussions.

>> Developing a track and field facility – IN PROGRESS. In November, the commission approved the expenditure of $49,500 to a firm designing concepts for this facility. The proposed locations for a track and field facility, which officials believe will provide a tourism boost, are at Walton Park, Rip Hewes Stadium, Doug Tew Recreation Center, and the Northcutt football field.

>> Reviewing the alcohol ordinance in light of conflicts between churches and alcohol retailers – IN PROGRESS. The commission heard a proposal from Dothan Planning Director Todd McDonald in December. The draft will be discussed at a work session to be held on Jan. 8 at 9 a.m. at the Dothan Civic Center.

Additionally the city conducted a wage study for all of its employees, one of the commission’s high priorities, Saliba said. Efforts have also been made on a few other high priority projects, including those addressing affordable housing in Dothan.

On the city department side, the Dothan Police Department and the Dothan City Schools system will develop security plans for each of the city’s school – something the commission deemed a top priority. Projects that address the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandates for the city’s sewer system, plus other initiatives aimed at reducing red water, also took place in 2018.

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Follow Jeremy Wise on Twitter @DEwiseTrojan.

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