Mayor provides Rotarians with city update

Published 5:08 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

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Demopolis Mayor Woody Collins addressed the Rotary Club Sept. 13 and gave Rotarians an update on the city and what has been accomplished since he took office in 2020.

Collins described how he and the City Council had been “cleaning up old issues” within the city, such as demolishing the old police station that had become an eyesore for the community. Collins said the project of getting rid of the old station stalled for several years because of costs but the task was finally complete..

“The Council got behind it and we cleaned it up. I think it looks a whole lot better,” Collins said.

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During the meeting, Collins announced that the connector road project for the Industrial Park had finally been completed. The project was 25 years in the making and had been spearheaded by Rotary Club member John Cox. The initial bid for the road project was $125,000, but when the city finally got around to the project, the bid price had jumped to $357,000.

“We worked it out and I’m so proud of everyone’s efforts on that,” said Collins.

The City Landing project was completed last October and drew attention to Demopolis because, like the industrial park road project, the repairs to the landing almost didn’t happen because of costs.

Bids for the landing project began at $1.2 million and by completion, it cost $3.4 million. Fortunately, seven government agencies came together to help pay for the project.

“I am really proud of this. It’s hard enough to work with one government agency, but to pull seven together? I was so excited about that,” said Collins.

Collins also outlined funding in the amount of $2.7 million the city received to turn the basement of the Civic Center into a FEMA rated storm shelter. Collins said renovating the basement is phase one of an entire Civic Center renovation. 

“We call it a storm shelter, but it’s not. That’s a terrible term to use. It’s a safe house,” said Collins. “Until we get it rated to a FEMA rated storm shelter, it’s not a legal storm shelter. This $2.7 million is supposed to help us do that and I can’t wait to get started on that.” 

The old Demopolis Public School building is a priority project in the works, Collins told Rotarians. The building currently houses the Canebrake Players. Collins said he is fully supportive of saving the building and saving a place for the Canebrake Players to put on their plays.

“Very few people around here have anything that compares to our Canebrake Players,” Collins said. “If that building isn’t repaired, not only will the Players be homeless, but we will lose an architectural wonder. I do not want that building to go away.”

The next project in the works is an expansion of the Theo Ratliff Activity Center. Collins said the renovations would double the size of the center.

“That center is used so much. It is overwhelmed with traffic. Their kitchen is a microwave oven. It’s small,” said Collins.

One of the things that Collins said he is most proud of accomplishing after taking office is getting the city’s financial reserves in order. During his first finance meeting as mayor, Collins told the Finance Committee he was “disgusted” with the way the reserves were being handled.

“I made a vow that before my five years were up, we would get our reserves back to where they were,” said Collins. “I give the Finance Committee all the credit in the world. In only two-and-a-half years, our reserves are back to where we want them to be. I am so excited about that.”

Collins said he writes rules for himself about how to act and appear in everyday life. One rule he always follows is to try at everything he attempts.

“You can’t succeed nor can you fail until you try,” Collins said. “Trying in my book is moving this community forward. As long as I’m around we are going to try.”