Sitting down with Madison Mayor Paul Finley for some year-end reflections

MADISON, Ala. - In the last year, the city of Madison has landed a minor league baseball team, secured funding for four big road projects and come up with a proposal to build new schools.

Asked to sum up the last 12 months, Mayor Paul Finley says, "accomplishment."

"It starts with what we did coming into office in 2016...and that's working with the city council and our department heads to come up with an understanding of what we want to accomplish and then going to work to do it," he adds.

For 2019, the mayor says the focus will be on building and progress.

Of course, the biggest project right now is Town Madison and a new baseball stadium.

"What we're equally excited about is that its a multi-use venue that we've never had before. As we start to see Town Madison come together and the puzzle pieces...that in essence pay for that... take place, we're that much more excited."

"It's a ways of building to get there but yes, that's the biggest accomplishment that we did was find that centerpiece and destination point for 500 acres that's going to turn into a regional destination spot."

Still, Mayor Finley recognizes not everyone shares the excitement.

The bid to bring baseball to Madison has drawn plenty of criticism - down to and including the name - the Rocket City Trash Pandas.

"We understand not everyone sees it the same way and part of our responsibility is to transfer knowledge on how we got to the point that we do think it's a good decision for the city of Madison - both short-term and long-term."

"The reality of it is, sometimes you grab opportunity when it's there."

"The biggest criticism comes from, 'don't take money from roads or schools that could be used and put it to something we're not sure we want.'  Well, the reality of it is, putting that there is going to develop that 500 acres and bring in more money and more excitement for roads and for schools."

"Some of the projects - the year of building that's going to come - are multiple road projects. We did a transportation study a year ago. From that we understood our choke points and the areas we could make the biggest difference. We had about 20 million dollars that we bonded in the summer and four big projects start off with projects that we in the city of Madison can do. It's our major choke points of Hughes Road, Sullivan Street, Brownsferry (and) we're doing a big sidewalk project on Wall Triana."

"From a schools standpoint, you had to define where you are but more importantly, what you need to keep those schools at the highest level."

Working with a growth committee and the school system, Mayor Finley says the city came up with a game plan to do just that. Now, a referendum on a proposed 12 mil property tax increase is expected in 2019.

"We understand it's asking for more money but it goes directly toward schools and nowhere else. So, that's what we've heard folks ask us to do, 'help us solve this problem.' I think we've worked to do that and we're then going to give it back to them and see if they agree. We strongly believe they will."

As 2018 comes to a close, Mayor Finley offers this word to the people of Madison:

"Thank you for giving me the opportunity...I think we're doing what we said we would do. We're focusing on the quality of life, on taking the money that they give us and stretching it as far as we can... and we want to continue to hear from them. If they want to get involved or understand what's happening in their community we want to do it together and collaboratively. So, thank you and we're going to keep working for you."

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