By Kim West
From a farming community of 46,000 only three decades ago to an area fast approaching 90,000 residents, Limestone County is experiencing “tremendous growth,” said Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee during Tuesday’s state of the county address.
In his speech at Athens State University’s Sandridge Student Center, Menefee said the Census Bureau has estimated the county could grow from 89,450 this year to 91,630 by December 2014.
“I think in due time, with our population growth, you’ll see it (redistricting) change again, and maybe in less than a 10-year period,” he said.
Consumer spending has also spiked in the county, with sales tax revenue rising from $14.6 million to $16.4 million in the past two fiscal years, Menefee said.
Citing a report released in March 2012, he said the county ranked first in the state for $539 million in capital investments for economic development.
“We’re the fifth fastest-growing county in Alabama, and I don’t think we’ve stopped,” Menefee said.
The county is moving forward with the estimated $3 million renovations at the courthouse and converting the former Better Living building into a temporary courthouse and future home of Community Corrections for $558,000.
Menefee expects the downtown courthouse work to be bid out and awarded “the first of the year, maybe later,” and that it would take 2 1/2 to 3 months to complete.
“In all this growth, we have to expand,” the chairman said. “We have four courtrooms in that building, and we really only have one (at the courthouse) … I don’t know how the judges have dealt with it.”
The county is also expanding the jail, and Menefee said he expects the addition of 24 single-lockdown cells and a shell for 24 more to be “completed in 2014 or early 2015.”
“I figure this will carry the county for nearly 12 to 18 years,” he said.
The county is financing the jail project with a $3 million, 15-year bond issue that will be repaid by a $35 court cost fee, Menefee said.
In closing, the chairman said city and county leaders need to continue to collaborate in order to spur growth, and also be willing to cross geographic boundaries for economic development projects.
“We’ve got to cross lines if we’re going to continue … to make things happen,” he said.