Hartselle planning $13 million in new buildings, park master plan
By Bayne Hughes
For the Enquirer
Hartselle wants to move forward with plans for using the remainder of a $14.5 million bond issue to build a new fire station, library and event center while upgrading Sparkman Park.
The city has identified possible sites for the buildings and has a consultant working on a master plan for the park improvements, Mayor Randy Garrison said.
The only money appropriated from the 2021 bond issue was the $1.5 million the City Council spent on ballfield lighting at Sparkman Park.
City Council member Dwight Tankersley said Hartselle’s growth, which has increased the city’s revenue, is allowing the improvements to public facilities.
Garrison said the city is looking for property off Alabama 36 near Interstate 65’s exit 325 for a roughly $4 million fire station to replace Station 1 on East Main Street.
Built in the 1980s, the three-bay Station 1 is too small and has the problems associated with an aging building does, he said.
“There’s not enough room to expand Station 1,” Garrison said. “That fire station was built to handle maybe one to two people for a 24-hour period, and we have four now with each shift. We just need more room.”
He said the ladder truck “barely fits” in one of the station’s bays. The city recently ordered a new ladder truck and is waiting for it to be delivered, but he doesn’t believe it will fit in a bay of the old Station 1.
Garrison said they looked at whether there’s a need for a third fire station but decided that a replacement for Station 1 near the interstate could provide the coverage the city needs.
The city has a Class 4 ISO rating with the coverage of the two stations and a new station could improve this rating, Tankersley and Garrison said.
“The plan is to spread out the fire stations so they can better cover the city,” Tankersley said. “I don’t think we’ve had any problem providing service for our citizens, and I think we’ll be able to continue to provide excellent service.”
Garrison said the city is planning for an estimated $3.5 million event center that’s about half of the size of the 27,000-square-foot Ingalls Harbor Pavilion in Decatur.
Hartselle officials attended the Alabama League of Municipalities’ annual conference in Tuscaloosa last year, and both men said they like the 20,000-square-foot Tuscaloosa Event Center that’s connected with the Saban Discovery Center in the former Tuscaloosa Times building.
“We really like the way the Tuscaloosa Event Center was constructed,” Garrison said. “The Tuscaloosa center is built in the same way (as Ingalls) so it’s flexible and can offer open-air events, but it has air conditioning.”
An event center is a priority for the city because Hartselle doesn’t have a suitable location for large gatherings, receptions or parties, Tankersley said.
“Our options now are Sparkman Civic Center and, depending on what kind of gathering it is, the Hartselle High auditorium,” Tankersley said. “A decent-sized crowd can use the Civic Center but it’s just not laid out well for events.”
The old library that’s downtown next to City Hall in the former Citizens Bank location is showing its age, so they’re planning to spend $2.5 million on a new library.
“We’re looking at new construction (of a library) close to the new City Hall or at another location,” Tankersley said.
Consultant Gameday LLC is working on a Sparkman Park master plan. Garrison said the city budgeted about $4.5 million for park upgrades, including the $1.5 million spent on improving the park’s lights.
Tankersley said a master plan will help efficiently use the space in the park that has baseball and softball fields, two playgrounds, a walking trail and pavilions.
“We want to improve what’s there, whether it’s finding ways to improve parking, pavilion and restroom areas and the drainage throughout the park,” Tankersley said. “One of the things we’ve discussed is there are multiple open (drainage) flumes throughout the park and around our ballfields that we would like to see put under ground.”