Spotlight on Fayette, Lamar & Marion: Community Development

Downtown improvements abound in Hamilton, Winfield, Millport, Vernon and Fayette.

Downtown Hamilton. Photo by Art Meripol.

Marion County

The Marion County Commission has hired an architect and construction manager for a new jail, says Kalyn Moore, county administrator. The $13 million to $15 million project was put out for bid in January 2022. The jail will house about 220 inmates. It will be located in the Bedford Industrial Park near the county DHR building, she says.

The county also was able to pave five major roads, thanks to Rebuild Alabama funds, she says.

The city of Hamilton, the county seat, saw a new Love’s Travel Center on Exit 44 off Interstate 22. The city has only one vacancy in its downtown buildings, and the south end of the city is growing, says Mayor Bob Page. “Our area is primed for growth,” Page says. “We have new businesses and are becoming known.” The city has hired consulting firm NaviRetail to help with more retail recruitment.

City officials are planning a track facility for area high schools and colleges on a former manufacturing site. Officials hope the $2 million track will help attract sports tourism and other economic development. There also are plans to have a nature trail/cross country track along the Buttahatchee River. Eventually, soccer fields and an amphitheater are planned, Page says. It’s also the site of a canoe and kayak launch set for improvements and additions.

The Pastime Civic Center and Theatre in Winfield recently received significant damage from a tornado.

The city of Winfield deeded the former Sitel call center buildings to Winfield city schools with plans to convert some of the space for career technical programs, says Mayor Randy Price. The city’s Main Street program also is renovating a former Boy Scout building downtown. However, a recent tornado ripped through Winfield in late December, causing significant damage to several buildings.

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First step in the Sitel project will be converting buildings for a central school district office and stage, says Winfield Superintendent Randy Thomley. Later, the system will have career technical classes there. “We do an entrance survey every year for our students to tell us what they would like to have in those classes,” Thomley says. “We already have students who take career technical classes and participate in dual enrollment, and this will allow us to offer more programs.”

Future plans for the site also include creating a Winfield Primary School, grades pre-K to first, that will free up space at the elementary school without having to build new schools, Thomley says. The system also plans to have its own bus facility with fueling capability.

Hamilton expects a vote early this year on the possibility of creating a city school system.

The Marion County school system has career technical programs at its five high schools that range from agriculture to business to health science to diesel tech.

Downtown Fayette. Photo by Art Meripol.

Fayette County

Fayette County and the city of Fayette have partnered on road projects that will help residents, local industry and businesses, says Fayette Mayor Rod Northam. Fayette, an Alabama Community of Excellence, celebrated its 200th anniversary last year.

The city is working on how its COVID-19 recovery funds will be used, Northam says, and it may involve improvements to the sewer system, as well as updates to its aquatic park, which is a major tourism attraction. “Next year, we plan to build a new water feature,” he says.

Fayette’s picturesque downtown has more lofts being developed above local businesses, and the city is looking at the need for more housing, Northam says. The city is also working on a recreational trail and is considering a local transportation system.

Northam says the city, Fayette County and Fayette County schools are looking at increasing career technical programs by developing a manufacturing training center that will align with Bevill State Community College and other entities. The school system has several career technical programs in its high schools, but this would provide even more.

The town of Millport was established in 1887.

Lamar County

The county received a grant to repair a road in front of South Lamar School in Millport, says Jeff Long, District 4 commissioner. A K-12 school, South Lamar also is a community hub.

In Vernon, the county seat, city officials urged residents to support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they responded well, says Don Dollar, city clerk. As a result, those businesses that remained open have stayed open and some new small businesses have opened downtown.

The city offers youth basketball, baseball, softball and soon disc golf in its city park that has five playing fields, two recreational areas, a splash pad and large pavilion, Dollar says. The city is finishing up a zero-entry swimming pool at the park, with a new concession area and open-walled pavilion, he says. The city also purchased 10 more acres that can be used for parking and additional fields.

Vernon City Complex.

Vernon’s City Complex also is a community hub that includes the library, an art gallery, museum, city hall, police department and space for all types of events.

In Sulligent, city officials have updated all the lighting and scoreboards at the city park fields and plan to resurface the track, says Mayor J. Scott Boman. The city has applied for ATRIP funds for drainage issues, and there have been several updates to city hall, including safety measures, he says.

Lamar County schools have a stand-alone school of technology that offers several career technical programs, including welding, health sciences, cosmetology, precision machining and automotive, officials say. Dual enrollment also is offered through Bevill State Community College.

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