The first quarter of 2018 in Cullman County got off to a bang as hail pummeled business, homes and automobiles at a cost of millions of dollars.

While the hail storm may have been the most memorable, albeit dreadful event to befall our area, the positive happenings around the area set the foundation for even better things in 2019.

Near the end of the year, a host of local, state and federal officials announced that the City of Cullman was awarded a $14 million grant, the largest in local municipal history, to complete the four-laning of Alabama 157. The work will take several years to complete, but the benefits for the community will evolve for years after the pavement is set.

The past year also brought more openings of retail stores and restaurants, healthy sales tax receipts, strong scores for public schools, the rise of community theater and overall improved entertainment opportunities for both locals and visitors. The positive aspects help create a good quality of life.

The growth, however, creates or accentuates needs.

Public officials hear plenty concerns about traffic growth, a good problem to have as Cullman serves as a regional commercial center. The volume of motorists traveling the main thoroughfares and other roads is creating the need for a strategic traffic plan.

Enforcement of traffic speeds along U.S. 31 needs to be stepped up as some motorists continue to ignore the signs and barrel through the city. U.S. 278 in downtown would benefit from slower speeds to ensure safety for pedestrians as well as other drivers as some speed up to zip through traffic signals. The larger highways are under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Department of Transportation, the local legislative delegation will be needed to influence a reduction of speed.

The need for affordable housing and more workers to fill slots at local businesses and industries is also a concern for the area. The pressure to maintain a strong workforce will increase in time as the Mazda/Toyota production plant will be built and draw away many skilled workers.

While these issues can be classified as problems, they are also the positive symptoms of growth. The good news is the City of Cullman is forming committees to exam the area’s most pressing needs and will be able to offer recommendations to address the issues soon.

Cullman County is a great place to live. The leadership and cooperation of area officials has been solid and continues to become more creative and assertive.

We applaud the effort of those involved in ensuring that Cullman continues to surge ahead with a strong commitment for tomorrow. Building on our successes and staying focus on the future will only make our community better in 2019 and beyond.

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