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The City of Columbiana is working with Shelby County to renovate a vacant health department building across from City Hall on Mildred Street to create a senior citizens center. (Martin J. Reed / mreed@al.com)

COLUMBIANA, Alabama -- Columbiana Mayor Stancil Handleybeams with excitement as he talks about several new projects happening in thecity this year that include a new senior citizens center and improvements tothe congested intersection at Highways 70 and County Road 26.

"My biggest disappointment is things cannot be donefaster in municipal government," Handley told the audience gathered for today'sSouth Shelby Chamber of Commerce monthly lunch meeting at the Columbiana FirstUnited Methodist Church.

Handley took the opportunity to talk about theprogression of the projects in the city. "We started more than a year ago onthese projects," he said, noting the extensive approvals needed from variousentities. "Everybody's got to be in or we can't nail up a board."

Intersectionimprovement: The project to on Highway 70 thatconnects with County Road 26 leading to Alabaster should see movement this year,Handley said.

The project that involves the Alabama Department ofTransportation and Shelby County has taken more than a year and a half to getthe needed permission, Handley said. "The paper is in the bank," he said aboutacquiring the approvals.

The intersection improvements need to happen before ahousing development planned for more than a decade in that area can gaintraction, Handley said.

Senior center:"In Columbiana, we have not done our senior citizens properly," Handley said,noting plans to remodel the vacant health department building on Mildred Streetacross from City Hall into a senior center.

"We have plans for a new senior citizens center. Thecounty has partnered with us," he said.

Currently the seniors are sharing the city's recreationcenter with other entities that use the facility. Handley said the seniors willhave their own place to congregate.

"The building has been prepared to redo. It's been tornout. It's just a hull," he said.

The city is expecting bids due by Jan. 26 for theproject. "The original occupation date on that was fall 2013," Handley said,expressing optimism about the new facility's development. "That's somethingthat's going to happen."

Summer Classicsproperty: The city is getting ready to break ground on the vacant SummerClassics property just west of Main Street to develop into an amphitheater,pavilion and park area.

"It's been sitting right there in the middle of our town,"Handley said, calling the site a "blighted area."

"We need to raise some money for that. Now is the time,"he said.

The new facility will complement the planned ShelbyCounty Arts Council entertainment venue planned for land adjacent to the site,the mayor said.

"The site plan is on paper," he said. "We have opened thebids for construction to start moving dirt on the city part" of the land.

Housingdevelopment: Handley said the city's Planning and Zoning Commission is meetingtonight to consider a proposed rezoning that would allow an expansion of a residentialdevelopment.

"This is going to happen," Handley said, but he warnedthe audience that it will take time to develop.

"Because of paperwork and all the things I was tellingyou before ... the earliest possible date they can do anything up there isJanuary 2015," he said.

Public transit: Handley is excited about the citystarting up its this spring that will providetransportation along a designated route in town. "It's only one bus but we'recalling it a transit system," he said.

Handley said there is a demonstrated need in the city forpublic transportation. "I live on Highway 25 West and I have people walking bymy house every day from the Piggly Wiggly ... with groceries in their hands," hesaid. "We need free transportation ... and we've got it. It's sitting right outthere."

He referred to the red trolley that was sitting in thechurch parking lot outside the chamber meeting hall.

All of the projects come from the work of city employeesand others. "I firmly believe that is our strongest asset," he said about thedepartment leaders and city employees. "We've been able to amass a group ofpeople who have a passion for this city and moving it forward."


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