Officials planning a bright new year

With the new year looming, elected officials and community leaders say they are looking forward to the opportunities and challenges in 2013.

Flora Mayor Leslie Childress said the town expects to expand its business base in the new year. “Hopefully, we’ll add some businesses to this area. If they come through, they will be a benefit to our tax base.”

Flora is expecting to finish a major project — the building of a new police station. “Our target date is no later than Feb. 1,” Childress said.

Ridgeland expects to see more growth and development in the coming months, Mayor Gene McGee said.

“We will work on redeveloping the southeast Ridgeland area. That’s a critical part of our city’s future,” he said.

The city will continue its work to clean up the city center area on U.S. 51, just north of the Ridgeland library. McGee said the city will also work to solidify its long-range financing for the project that will eventually house a new city hall and an arts center.

As progress is made on the widening of Lake Harbour Drive from U.S. 51 eastward, McGee said the city is working on the plans to take that project westward, across to Highland Colony Parkway.

Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler said citizens can expect additions to the city’s retail base in the coming year.

“What we’re going to see are major retail developments announced that are now on the drawing board or under discussion,” she said. “In the spring we expect construction to start on one major retail site.

“You’ll see a lot of retail development that is in keeping with Madison’s overall plan,” Butler said. “The year 2013 will be a banner year for the city.”

John Reeves, the new chairman of Madison’s Planning and Zoning Commission, said the board is committed to working with city officials and developers on quality development. “What makes Madison great is how it has developed through the years.

“The mayor and Board of Aldermen have seen to it that only first class development is allowed here,” he said. “I plan to carry on that tradition and be very careful in anything we approve, and we’ll require the best before it is approved.”

Board of Supervisors President John Bell Crosby said he expects 2013 to be a good year in the county.

“I see a lot of things coming to fruition positively in Madison County,” Crosby said. “We’re seeing a turn for the better.

“Hopefully, we’ll see revenues rise in general,” he said. “That will help us with our cash reserves and help us meet our budget.

“We’ve seen interest increase in 2012 in residential properties. I expect that to continue,” Crosby said.

District 3 Supervisor Gerald Steen said he expects exciting things to happen in 2013 in Madison County.

“As a supervisor, I am proud and honored to report that we have a very sound road and infrastructure plan that will keep our roads in good condition and be maintained on a regular basis,” he said. “The roads of Madison County will continue to be my No. 1 priority.

“In addition to infrastructure, we must continue working hard to make sure that economic development continues to grow at a very healthy rate and our challenge must be to keep up with that rate of growth in a way to deepen the fabric that holds Madison County together,” Steen said.

“This is why we will work with the local private and public organizations that have as their goals to make Madison County a great place to do business and call home,” he said.

County officials will continue to be mindful of its finances and stay within its budget for the year, Steen said.

Madison County Superintendent of Education Ronnie McGehee said the district enters this year with a lot of uncertainty over its money and education in general. “We don’t know yet what the 2013 Legislature will decide on public education.

“At the same time in Madison County, we’re looking to provide kids what the best instruction so they will have more options after graduation,” he said. “With challenges come opportunities.”

This year, the Madison County Business League begins its fourth year as the private economic development support organization for the Madison County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA), executive director Jan Collins said.

“In 2013, the Madison County Business League will continue to develop strong working relationships with and work in unity with all elected/appointed officials for the benefit of the community by promoting increased employment, business activity, capital investment, overall quality of life and other factors associated with the prosperity we enjoy in Madison,” Collins said.

The league will continue to host symposiums and forums that bring public and private sector leaders together, she said. In 2013, the league will continue to host its “coffees” that bring the governor, U.S. senators and congressmen to speak to local leaders on timely topics at the state and national levels, Collins said.

The Business League and MCEDA along with United Way of the Capital Area will continue their two-year certification process as co-lead agencies for the North Madison County Excel By 5 Coalition to raise awareness for early childhood education and kindergarten readiness in the north part of the county, Collins said.

Later this year, Madison Countians Allied Against Poverty looks to move into its new headquarters that allows the nonprofit more opportunities to help those living in poverty.

“We look forward to expanding our education programs once we get in our larger facility,” said executive director Karen Robison. “We look forward to another successful year.”