ELBERTA - The Town of Elberta had lots to discuss and celebrate during the State of the Town Address, recalling the town’s successes during 2019, and discussing how they came to be. The address was given by Mayor Jim Hamby, and followed by a catered dinner by Chick & Sea. Prior to the beginning of the address, the town received two grants via Senator Chris Elliott, which will go towards the town’s Elementary School and Middle School.
“The state of the town of Elberta is excellent,” said Hamby. “We have S&P rating of A plus, we have 1,800 citizens, and we have five schools, three public schools and two private schools, and I think that’s a tremendous thing to be proud of.”
The question Hamby looked to answer during the address was why the town is doing so well. He identified three key factors to the town’s success: prayer, the strong national economy, and the Baldwin County School System. He credited the school system with not only investing money into municipalities, but also for their methods of teaching children. Lessons, according to Hamby, which benefit adults as well.
“My granddaughter used to go to Elberta Elementary School,” Hamby said. “One day I went to pick her up and we were talking about something we had to do, and my granddaughter says, ‘let’s synergize, PawPaw.’ Now, PawPaw was ashamed to say he didn’t know what synergized meant, so I regrouped and asked her, and she said, ‘you know, synergize. Let’s work together.’ So that’s the reason we’re here, because we’re synergizing, and that is a big factor in the success of anybody, anyplace, anywhere, but particularly for Elberta.”
During 2019, one of the largest happenings in Elberta was construction on the Sportsplex, a $4 million project that the town is building for approximately $1.5 million with the help of grants and donations. The Sportsplex will boast a high school baseball field and three soccer fields. Four more fields will be developed at a future time. To make the Sportsplex a reality, the town has $1.1 million coming from a bond issue with $100,000 annual payments for the next 15 years, a $372,000 LWCF grant, a $14,000 Gulf Coast Resource and Conservation Development grant, a $10,000 grant from Centennial Bank Elberta, $5,000 anonymous donation, and numerous donations of equipment and needed items from individuals and businesses.
Elberta partnered with Summerdale concerning 38 acres donated by the Faust family, where Hamby hopes to see a standalone high school in the future. The two towns have worked to get power on the property, security lights, a well, pump, and pumphouse, three football/soccer fields, irrigation, and a road with a turnaround wide enough that bus can turn without going off the road.
Other highlights in 2019 include creating crosswalk signals on Main Street and State Street thanks to donated equipment from ALDOT, installing 66 streetlights in uptown Elberta, 23 streetlights in the Miflin community, and plans for 11 more lights in downtown Elberta.
A large project going forward in 2020 will be to build a safe room for local first responders who stay behind during emergency events and evacuations.
“This will be something for first responders to stay inside and not get blown away,” Hamby said. “The really synergizing part about this is we applied for the maximum grant that you could get, and on the application we pointed out that Perdido Beach doesn’t have one of these, Lillian doesn’t have one of these, Josephine doesn’t have one of these. We were awarded the maximum we could get, which was $820,650.75, and we’re going to take every penny and build this building. Our Police Department, our Fire Department, and every department in this part of the county will have the ability to get in this building and be safe.”
Once complete, the safe room will be 2,700 square feet with the ability to withstand winds of 250 miles per hour. The total project is $1.1 million.
During 2019 ALDOT paid for a culvert change on the left-hand side between the drug store and Centennial Bank, and will be changing the culvert on the opposite side in the future. In 2021, ALDOT will be repaving Highway 98 through Elberta as well as the parking lots.
“On roads, County Road 83 and County Road 20 needed to be fixed, and we did fix it,” said Hamby. “We also paved Pilgrim Road and North Rolling Green Road, and we changed all the cross drains underneath the road, which made the project overall a $1.1 million project.”
The cross drains project was completed with the help of numerous grants and a USDA loan which resulted in a $15,000 annual payment for the next 15 years, which will come from the town’s general budget. The paving was accomplished through a USDA loan/grant program as well, with a $50,000 grant and a $579,000 loan that will be paid off in the next 15 years at $50,000 annually.
The town won a Walton Award for bringing federal, state, county, and municipal governments together to accomplish the resurfacing project.
Upcoming future projects include downtown renovations through a downtown tap grant, which will create new sidewalks, new paver areas, greenspaces, and more streetlights.