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Who will be mayor?

By By Adam Prestridge
The hot topic of discussion between mayoral candidates, incumbent Howard Shell and challenger, Gil Bonner, during a forum Monday evening was local funding given by the city to support Atmore schools.
Shell, Bonner and councilmen candidates that will be on the Aug. 26 ballot for municipal elections met during the political event hosted by the Progressive Civic &Recreational Club at Houston Avery Park.
PCRC president Daniel Lyles opened the meeting explaining the format each candidate would have to follow and then allowed each candidate their opportunity to voice why they believe that they are the right candidate for the seat they seek.
During both mayoral candidates’ introductions each touched on the subject of funding for public education.
Shell first mentioned funds for education in discussing the city’s support of an ad valorem tax, which is passed by the city’s voters every 20 years and is assessed on their property taxes.
Atmore is the only town where residents voted for the tax, which was passed on Aug. 4, 2000. According to Superintendent Billy Hines, the funds received are used for extra teacher units in Atmore schools only.
Bonner, 39, spoke about education in Atmore from the get-go.
Bonner added that if elected he would like to start an after school programs and build a recreation center for the youth of the city.
Bonner went onto add that it needs to be encouraged to reward the city’s children for doing well in school and a recreation center would be an avenue in assisting the administration at Atmore school in doing so.
Shell: Opening Remarks
Shell first spoke of “the two hurricanes,” Ivan and Dennis, the city survived during his last four years as mayor. He touched on some of the damage the city suffered including both Houston Avery and Tom Byrne parks, Atmore fire station No. 2, the shop at City Hall and airport damages, which cost the city millions.
Shell also mentioned the city’s efforts under his leadership in demolishing “with assistance of homeowners” approximately 30 abandoned and storm damaged homes and buildings, including the old Masonic Lodge. He added the $1.5 million grant the city obtained to repair the airport, which was used to build 10 T-hangers and a large maintenance hanger.
In addition to grants and repairs performed during his administration, Shell also spoke of the retail growth the city has experienced in the last four years.
In the way of industrial growth, Shell shared with the audience the council’s efforts to secure a $1.3 million grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation to build a new industrial park access road from Jack Springs Road to Hwy. 31. He also explained the logic behind Rivercane, an 850-acre commercial/industrial project that started when Gov. Don Siegelman was in office.
In the last three years, the city has worked to install gas, water and sewer at Rivercane, which they already provide for Fountain Correctional Facility and Holman Correctional Facility. He admitted the project has cost the city millions of dollars in infrastructure costs and land acquisition.
Shell concluded by ensuring voters that none of the things the city has accomplished over the past four years could have been done without the council he currently services with.
Bonner: Opening Remarks
Children continued to be the focus of Bonner throughout his opening statement.
Bonner also expressed that he thought Rivercane was a “wonderful concept” that has great potential.
Focusing on programs such as Head Start, after school programs, a recreation center and a senior center were the main focus of Bonner’s address.
Following the introduction of the mayoral candidates, the floor was given to those vying for seats in council Districts 1, 2 and 3.
The mayoral candidates were later given the opportunity to answer a few questions submitted by citizens to Lyles prior the event including questions about business district boundaries on the north side of town, historical building restoration and police and fire protection.