Our View: Park improvements signal something even better
It’s taken a while to get the project moving, but definite improvements are coming to Talladega’s Veterans Park.

City Manager Brian Muenger said the project was one of the first things he worked on when he moved to the city almost five years ago, and he’s happy to see it moving toward completion.

The park is the site of some of the biggest celebrations in the city each year. It’s the home of Sunshine Saturday, a fundraiser for the Arc, which has become a much-anticipated day of family-friendly fun. Each Fourth of July it’s the gathering point for live music and fireworks.

Throughout the year its playground and pavilions are used by any number of individuals and groups, youth ball teams use parts of the park to practice their skills, and a walking track offers a spot for people to get outdoors for a little exercise.

And all those folks have noticed the big, open ditch that bisects the property, and has been getting bigger and deeper over the years. A fence has been put up to try to keep people from falling in, and it’s been moved three times as erosion kept making it wider.

The ditch is the prime motivator for improvements, but the public will see a lot more by the time the work is completed, which should happen by the end of the year.

More lights and security cameras are being added, with underground utilities throughout the park. The ditch is to become a reshaped grassy drainage channel, with a new twin box culvert installed underneath Spring Street. New pedestrian bridges will cross the channel, and an additional parking lot on the west side of the park will accommodate 62 more cars.

Groundwork will improve drainage, and improvements are also planned for the gazebo. Utility infrastructure in the vicinity is also getting an upgrade.

It’s a pretty good project for a small city, with a total price tag approaching three quarters of a million dollars, including the water and sewer department’s portion of the work.

And perhaps the most surprising part of the project is the city can afford it. There are no grants involved in the project, and sound financial planning is making it possible. Half of the extra cent of sales tax added a few years back is set aside for capital projects in the city, and another fourth of a percent goes to the capital projects account when the city’s escrow fund is at $250,000.

The project was bid out three years ago, but postponed due to the financial squeeze of the recession.

Municipalities typically use bonds to borrow money for big projects. The ability to handle this project within its budget speaks well of the fiscal discipline and planning at work, and allows the city the option of using its borrowing ability for even bigger projects when the need arises.

© 2013