Northport Mayor John Hinton is excited by what the city council has accomplished in the three years since they were first elected and even more so by what he expects is soon to come.

That was his message during a "midterm report" delivered during the council's regularly scheduled meeting Monday night, roughly halfway through a very unusual term.

This council was first elected in Fall 2020, when Hinton was chosen by the people to represent District 3 on the city council and Bobby Herndon was elected mayor.

Since then, Herndon has resigned, Hinton was named mayor after a somewhat convoluted process that saw Council President Jeff Hogg temporarily resign from that role so he would not be made mayor, and Governor Kay Ivey appointed Karl Wiggins to replace Hinton on the council.

This term would have also ended in 2024, but the Alabama Legislature voted in 2021 to push nearly all municipal elections back a year to 2025, to combat pandemic-related setbacks and "election fatigue."

That leaves two more years for this mayor and council to serve their constituents, and Hinton's Monday address focused on the accomplishments of the last three years and their priorities until 2025.

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Hinton is proud of the city so far, he said.

"I first would like to commend our Council for the fine work they have done during this term. The Council has chosen to attack issues and problems and not each other, resulting in great teamwork," he said. "They are progressive, yet contemplative and conservative. We each discharge our responsibilities in the City and try to accomplish things together. Tremendous progress has been made during these years with the excellent leadership of Ms. Glenda Webb, City Administrator, our Council and the wonderful staff of the City."

Hinton touted a broad reduction of existing debt in the last three years and major growth in both the city's population and tax revenue, which has seen the city's General Fund budget increase by 25 percent since 2020 to more than $44 million for Fiscal Year 2024.

The city's Fitch bond rating is up to AA+ from a former AA rating, which allows Northport to borrow money on better interest terms than it could before, which is well-timed as the city was issued just under $46 million in bonds to fund its three major in-progress recreational projects.

b(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
b(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

Hinton praised the city's grants writer Savannah Nelson, who has applied for more than 50 federal and other grants since August 2021, 31 of which have been awarded, sending more than $3.8 million to the city with millions more potentially pending.

This council has spent almost $6 million paving more than 16 miles of road in Northport, a high priority for the elected officials and their constituents.

The city's population continues to grow explosively, and Hinton said Census data shows a whopping 33 percent increase between 2010 and 2020 with more than 31,000 residents now living in the city.

Looking ahead, Hinton said the council is expected to soon adopt a new comprehensive plan to guide the next 20 years of growth in the city.

"This plan will be a great addition and help in our City. The City can choose how it will grow," Mayor Hinton said. "Our desire is to increase quality residential locations with affordable housing, quality businesses and quality residents to make our City great! The Comprehensive Plan will give specific direction for sub-division growth, lot size, types of acceptable homes, types of acceptable and desirable businesses for growth, and other factors."

Hinton also said the city is searching for ways to support the Tuscaloosa County School System after voters roundly rejected a tax increase to fund them further.

"Because the citizens chose not to support the tax hike for the Tuscaloosa County School System, the City is developing a partnership with the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education," Hinton said. "In addition to the annual grant the City has provided the schools in Northport for the last four years, the City will meet with School Board officials and the Superintendent to seek ways to help improve the facilities of some schools in Northport and provide funds to enhance the educational program for students. Quality education for our Northport students is a priority regardless of how it’s accomplished."

Hinton also noted that little if any of this would have been possible without cash from the city's 1-cent sales tax increase commonly referred to as the "Northport First" funds. The council adopted the tax hike without much fanfare or opposition after their neighbors to the south adopted the Elevate Tuscaloosa tax increase in 2019.

The mayor praised his police and fire department for making Northport one of the safest cities in Alabama and said Webb and others have been instrumental in launching new events such as the Veteran's Day Parade, the Easter Bunny Trail and a new Northport Police Department fall festival for constituents to enjoy.

To come, Hinton said major progress will be made on all three recreational projects before this term ends in 2025, and drainage upgrades for the often-flooded Two-Mile Creek are planned if relevant grants are accepted and approved.

Major projects are underway or will soon be to improve parts of Watermelon Road, Martin Luther King Boulevard, Main Avenue, Fifth Street, Mitt Lary Road, Charley Shirley Road and the intersection of McFarland Boulevard with Highway 43.

"We are proud of the tremendous progress made in the City since the 2020 election, and for the plans as they develop for the remainder of the term," Hinton said. "Northport City should experience tremendous growth in the future and will be positively changed in many ways to make the City great!"

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