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Mayor warns to be aware of new stop lines

Demopolis mayor Mike Grayson talked about some changes made to the U.S. 43 state truck route and other topics at his weekly press conference, held Monday at City Hall.

Grayson opened by talking about the state truck route that was adopted by the city council at its last meeting on Thursday. At that meeting, council members asked for the stopping line to be moved back at the intersection of Walnut Avenue and Capitol Street, where trucks turn to follow the route from Walnut Avenue to Cedar Avenue or vice-versa. Moving the line back will give trucks more room to maneuver as they make that turn.

“The paint crews (from the Alabama Department of Transportation) were already in town (on Friday), and we got it taken care of,” Grayson said. “We are going to monitor that. I think we need to make sure the people understand this, that the police department will be monitoring that intersection to make sure that people don’t pull too far up and create traffic hazards. We also need to make sure that people don’t try to pass 18-wheelers on the right side, and just to make sure right out of the chute to make that intersection as safe as possible.”

Grayson said that the “short cut” taken by some trucks down Fulton Street to Cedar Avenue through residential areas would also be monitored.

“What we’ll have to do is take down our local signs,” he said. “If you are on a GPS (global positioning system), like trucks are, that (the state route on Capitol Street) will be the state route, the way it already is. They (the truckers) should know that. If we take down those signs that say “Truck Route straight ahead’ rather than turning, and if we have it posted as the truck route, most of them will watch it.

“There may be an instance where we have to ticket people going on the old truck route through the neighborhood. We’ll probably give warning tickets for a short period of time, and after that, it will be full-blown traffic tickets (for trucks and vehicles that stop ahead of the stopping line).”

Prior to his talk to city employees, Grayson discussed some of the budget concerns.

“We inherited a budget that was $1.4 million over what our anticipated revenues would be,” he said. “We’ve got to get that back in line. Our revenues were aggressively projected. Right now, we’re looking at a 15-percent cut across the board in all departments. The challenge will be in finding a way to cut that money without losing any jobs and reducing services. In this environment, the last thing we want to do is lay somebody off, and that’s the real challenge.

“Our plan of attack is., first, to cut 15 percent. That may mean that we don’t get new uniforms or cut back on our city travel, cut back in the areas that are non-essential services. We’re going to have to cut back on overtime.

“If we can’t accomplish where we need to be with that 15-percent cut, then the next phase is to say, ‘Let’s go to a four-day, 10-hour week,’” he said. “If that doesn’t work, then we’re going to go to a 32-hour week, and then, of course, the most drastic thing will be to lay people off.

“Almost 49 percent of our city expenditures go to payroll benefits and overtime. That’s going to be challenging, but everybody on the council — myself included — the last thing we want to do is put somebody on the street.”

Grayson said that the city is also pursuing bringing more jobs to Demopolis.

“We were hoping to get them going right away,” he said, “but economics they way they are, a lot of businesses are waiting to see what the new incentives with the new Presidential administration are going to be. Barack Obama has said that the economy is going to be Job 1. From what I see and hear, they have a single-minded focus on getting people back to work.

“Right now, we’ve got right at about four different businesses that would fit into that category — one of them with a significant number of jobs — that would be coming to Demopolis and Marengo County. So, the news is not all bad. If you take the mindset that these are challenges — these are opportunities, and if you play to win, you have to believe that you have a chance to win, regardless of how hard the times are.”

Grayson mentioned that the city would be closely monitoring the sales tax revenue over the next few months.

“Sales tax is the lifeblood of any municipality,” he said. “In our situation, we’re looking at sales taxes representing about 50 percent of our monthly revenues. We will have a big bump towards the end of the year when business licenses renew, and the ad valorem taxes come in.

“In November, we were up 1.17 percent over October, and for the two-month time, October-November, we were up 2.12 percent over the prior year. The real test is going to be when we get our December in, which will be in the second week of January, to see what happened with Christmas sales, holiday spending and things like that.”

The next scheduled mayoral press conference will be on Monday, Dec. 29, at 10 a.m.