Maddox Discusses COVID-19, Elevate Tuscaloosa in Town Hall
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox held his third and final virtual town hall meeting Friday afternoon, but if you couldn't tune in, here is a recap of some of his major talking points.
Tuscaloosa County recorded the highest daily number of positive COVID-19 cases in over a month Friday.
According to BamaTracker.com, the county tallied 107 new cases Friday -- the most since Sept. 30 when it recorded 177 cases in a day. The county now has 11,536 cumulative cases since tracking began in March (8,243 confirmed and 3323 probable). During the virtual town hall meeting, Mayor Walt Maddox said that its something the city will "continue to keep its eye on."
"Ultimately, our number one priority is about protecting our healthcare system here in Tuscaloosa," Maddox said. "We need to watch the these numbers closely as we ramp into the winter, which by the experts will tell you that they think this is when you can see a growth in the number of people who will contract the coronavirus."
DCH has hovered around the 60 to 70 patient threshold for the past few weeks something that Maddox said the city is continuing to watch but it is not at a "danger zone level." Despite this, COVID-19 has taken its toll on the Tuscaloosa economy as over 40,000 residents have applied for unemployment benefits since the pandemic started in March.
"That's nearly 1/5th of Tuscaloosa County's population that have at some point applied for unemployment benefits. That just shows you the economic depth of impact of the coronavirus, and what it's done to our overall economy," Maddox said.
Tuscaloosa currently has an unemployment rate around 7%, which hovers right in between the state and national average. Maddox said that his main concern with unemployment is that Tuscaloosa is a "college town" meaning that the economy fluctuates depending on the academic year.
"So certainly, it calls upon all of us to do more to help our fellow citizens that are in need," Maddox said.
Riverwalk Improvement Updates:
Maddox and his staff also announced that much-anticipated improvements to the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk will look to begin construction in 2021.
The dual projects, which are projected to cost around $11 million combined, will give updates to the northern and western ends of the Riverwalk. Improvements to its western limits will begin in July 2021 and ultimately add over a mile of new track west of the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
"I think what's truly unique as you referenced Elevate is we were able to leverage a $5 million project and through a bill grant -- tremendous thanks to Senator Shelby and obviously our federal representatives -- we are going to get $15 million additional dollars," Brendon Moore, Executive Director of Urban Development for the city of Tuscaloosa said. "That is going to add a pedestrian bridge with enhanced connectivity and safety near River District Park, the Amphitheatre, the Saban Center, but also adding that additional connectivity back to West Tuscaloosa."
The northern portion of the Riverwalk is set to begin construction in April 2021 and add a pedestrian bridge that will connect to the southern portion of the riverwalk. It will also feature playground amenities as well as open lawn spaces for residents to enjoy.
"I think what's really exciting about that project is whether you have an interest in parks the trail head side, biking, jogging, it's really something for everybody so I think that's going to make it a really activated space for Tuscaloosa," Moore said.
Watch below to see the entire virtual town hall meeting.