Races coming to endPublished 4:03pm Saturday, August 25, 2012
Municipal elections in Atmore are less than a week away and this week candidates for Atmore City Council, District 5 Chris Harrison, Gregg Akins and Michael Arnold sat down with The Advance to discuss issues facing the community.
When asked about the still-recovering economy in Atmore, Akins said he feels the city is on the upswing, due largely in part to the accommodations it has to offer incoming businesses.
“The two major business generators are Rivercane and Atmore Industrial Park,” Akins said. “The bypass that was built of off Jack Springs Road gives (the park) immediate interstate access.”
Akins also pointed to those accommodations as a great tool to be used in luring offshoots of Airbus once it settles in Mobile.
“At this point and time, Atmore is ready to go with both Rivercane and the Industrial park,” Akins said. “The park has railroad access and the bypass to the interstate. We have a much better opportunity to be able to get these people up and going much more quickly than what other areas could right now.”
Harrison also praised the work that has been done at Rivercane and pointed to Airbus offshoots as a possible future economic boost.
“I think Rivercane was a great idea,” Harrison said. “We need to do our best to make Atmore and Rivercane more attractive to people like airbus.”
Harrison said, judging by Rivercan’s success in the midst of the economic downturn, he is excited about Atmore’s future with the development property.
“We were on track and then, the way the economy went down, with just what we have out their now we’ve brought new tax revenue and about 200 new jobs,” Harrison said.
“I feel that we need to continue focusing on this and working with the tribe (Poarch Band of Creek Indians). Those are really the things we can focus on and try to improve the economy for Atmore.”
Arnold too said attracting big businesses to town is essential, but said Atmore’s leadership should not forget the smaller, locally owned operations the town could use.
“We’ve come a long way to where we’re at now,” Arnold said. “But we could stand to have more industry and more jobs. It would be nice to have more clothing stores. Right now, for a lady to get a nice dress, they have to go out of town. We need to look at going out and getting more retail stores. Getting more industries and more factories, that will bring a new opportunity for jobs here in Atmore.”
When it comes to quality of life in Atmore, all three candidates agreed the city has much to offer, but could use even more.
“It’s good,” Arnold said. “But it can be better if we go out and we do a poll and we find out what the people of Atmore want here,” Arnold said. “As a council it would be our job to go and try to beckon these people to Atmore. There are some good things here. Atmore has a lot to offer. We need to go and get them and not give up. We have to continue on.”
“I think Atmore residents are spoiled rotten,” Akins joked. “We have a better quality of life than people in Mobile or Pensacola. In Mobile or Pensacola you can’t get your medication delivered to your house. You can’t get a tire company to come to where you are to pick up your car to fix a tire and bring it back to you. You can in Atmore. We have those things here.”
Harrison agreed Atmore has a lot to offer residents, even before the growth he said he believes Rivercane will bring.
“I feel that Atmore is a great place to live,” Harrison said. “I’ve lived here my whole life. We have several outlets for children. We have youth recreational sports. We have pools and tennis courts. We have a great YMCA program. We have Williams Station Day and Mayfest. These are things that support the culture of Atmore and a lot of people come from out of town to see those things.”
When it comes to crime in Atmore, Harrison said he is proud of the job law enforcement has done, but added there is always room for improvement.
“The crime rate is average or below average I think,” Harrison said. “We have a great police force. That’s one of the strengths of this town. We need to continue with the focus being on supporting them and make sure they have their budgeted dollars so they can operate successfully. We have a better police force than towns of larger sizes.”
Arnold also praised local law enforcement and said the council should focus on providing them with all of the training they need to stay safe and effective throughout the community.
“I know Atmore has crime,” Arnold said. “I know Atmore has had some murders that haven’t been solved. But overall, I think Atmore is good, but we need to do some more crime intervention. Maybe beginning a curfew would help. Chief Dean and Chief Carlee have done a superb job of keeping the department going with the little money they have. We need to seek more grants and seek new revenue to educate our officers better on some of the new technology out there. Criminals are getting slicker and slicker. We need to give our guys what they need to be slick just like them.”
Akins also said crime is an issue that can always be improved upon.
“We have our crime,” Akins said. “But I think, if you put us on a scale with Mobile, we would be about even, given the populations.”
Akins also spoke highly of Atmore’s police force and said officers deserve more than they make for their difficult jobs.
“We have a really great police force,” he said. “And they truly deserve to make more money than they do right now. People just need to help them out by reporting things that look suspicious. If you see something that doesn’t look right, give them a call.”