By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

When we met, Mayor Ronnie was putting the finishing touches on the State of the City speech which was held at Athens State University on January 31, and is now “in the can.” As has been discussed throughout this edition of Athens Now, like it or not, we have got to get good at growth, and need to do it now.

We talked about the successful opening of the new high school, and the challenges of having the first day occur in a physical deluge coupled with navigating new driving patterns. “People need to be patient, and more than anything they need to slow down,” said the mayor. He added, “We are working on getting the bugs out.” By Thursday and Friday things were better, and some people have chosen to go north on Jefferson, turn right on Elm, and turn right on Hwy 31 in order to get in the right hand lane to access drop-off. In addition, some people are getting on I- 65 and coming south to Hwy 31 to do the same thing. ALDOT has been consulted from the beginning of the entire project, and all of the traffic revisions have been done according to their requirements. But what will greatly help is when the street behind Jack’s is cleared and repaired. “We are also examining solutions that have worked in other communities,” said Mayor Ronnie.

Recently, there was a meeting at City Hall with representatives from several surrounding counties, and one of the primary concerns for all of them is traffic, particularly regarding I-565.They all asked, “How do you move traffic? Whose job is it? What part is ALDOT, local, state, federal, and where does the funding come from?” This will get hammered out; it has to if we are going to “grow well.” They also discussed regional infrastructure, the ever important topic of public safety, and workforce development.

One of the things that is going to continue to strengthen workforce development is the ongoing activities of the Limestone County Economic Development Association, which has been under the excellent long-term leadership of Tom Hill, who recently retired. It took awhile to find a capable replacement, but the LCEDA recently hired Bethany Shockney to take over, and Tom will stay on for 90 days to assist Bethany in the transition. Bethany will take the helm on March 1, and Tom will also be available for consultation later on as needed. Bethany has held a comparable position to Tom’s in Giles County, TN, and grew up surrounded by construction and agriculture. She served as Dean of Business/CIS, Technology, and Workforce Development at Calhoun Community College from 2008 to 2016. Truly, her heart beats with the desire for our area to “grow well.”

“We have to face the fact that our greatest success is going to be our greatest challenge,” said the mayor, and clearly there was much to pray for and about. So we did, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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