At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine announced a new restaurant and gave updates on various projects.
“It is my understanding that the old tourism building has sold and ‘Hwy 55 Burgers Shakes and Fries’ is coming in the second quarter of 2022,” Baine said.
The restaurant’s 50’s themed menu lists cheeseburgers, cheesesteaks and platters served in packaging with classic cars. The brand has 82 locations in North Carolina, 12 in South Carolina, six in Tennessee, two stores each in Florida, Texas and Georgia, and one each in Arkansas, Montana, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio.
The Council greeted the former occupants of the building, DeKalb Tourism, as CEO and President John Dersham made his annual presentation seeking funds to apply toward promoting the area’s attractions, joined by the group’s board members and Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association President/CEO Tami Reist. They spoke of how investments in advertising dollars generated from a share of lodging taxes has paid off, helping many hospitality businesses to rebound from the shutdown in spring 2020. The Council is in the budgeting planning process to determine funding next year.
The former tourism building, which flooded on Easter Sunday 2020, sits at the intersection of Airport Road and Highway 35. Baine said he has requested the Alabama Department of Transportation install turn signals for traffic turning off Airport Road or Jordan Road. The intersection is confusing and dangerous due to an uneven configuration.
“I’ve received complaints from people that they can’t turn there, and turn arrows would alleviate some of that,” Baine said. Plans to fix the intersection have been in the works as the state acquires public right-of-way in 2022.
“I’ve also requested a traffic count on the other end of Airport Road to determine whether a red light is needed there where the new Dollar General store is. The last traffic study happened three years ago,” Baine said.
The mayor took advantage of his meeting with Curtis Vincent, assistant north region engineer with the Alabama Department of Transportation, to discuss ongoing problems on Gault Avenue and the sharp turn commonly referred to as “Joe’s Truck Stop.”
“We did touch on that, as well as the railroad overpass,” he said. “They are considering different routes and hopefully we can see action on that depending on their findings. Some options will may cost less, and we may be able to pursue grant money for a project to move forward. I also talked to them about potholes on Gault Avenue. I get complaints about Gault daily, as I’m sure the whole Council does. The fix on that is to tear out and move utilities out of the street, which is a long process. [Vincent] is going to look at the worst spots to see if he can rehab them, then resurface it until they get a plan to fix it for good.”
Reconstruction work continues on Interstate 59 northbound from south of Highway 35 to north of State Road 7 through a projected completion date of Sept. 7, 2022.
Baine said ALDOT does not enthusiastically endorse a proposal by the DeKalb County Public Library to move its annual Christmas tree decorating fundraiser from the Alabama Walking Park to downtown sidewalks, but this would allow them to connect to electricity off streetlamps for the LED lighting on the trees.
In other business,
• tabled a resolution concerning the results of bids for decorative light poles. It was noted that gas tax money can be used for such a purpose. The Council has discussed possibly adding 30 additional lights to areas extending from the historic downtown district, including in front of the Fort Payne Opera House, down Fifth Street North and along Grand Avenue between First and Third Streets.
• authorized a pre-bid meeting with potential vendors seeking to demolish the old hospital, giving them a chance to ask questions on August 12 at 10 a.m. The bid will be awarded August 26.
• awarded the low bid for architecture services on a concessions structure for the proposed new soccer fields to Leonard Designs, pending review by the city attorney.
• accepted the donation of land to the city by Paul Young.
• opted-in to an opioid settlement for a chance to receive a portion of roughly $40 billion to be split among participating municipalities as reimbursement for additional costs to address the drug problem.
• approved a resolution amending a previous one that granted tax abatements to Plasman. This is a name change only, not additional abatements.