City Promises: Mayor Johnny Ford Talks Progress in Tuskegee

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By Brittany Bivins

It's been a little more than a year since local elections put a new group of mayors in office and re-elected some familiar faces.

Many of them were making big promises to their cities. A year later, how close are they to completing those plans?

We sat down with Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford to catch up on this year's progress.

When Ford won the mayor's seat last year, it wasn't his first time in City Hall. He defeated the incumbent to win back a seat he held for 28 years. He said he was far from finished with plans for Tuskegee.

When Ford ran, he said he said he would work to reopen VictoryLand, the Macon County casino that closed after a state raid. However, in a 2012 interview with CBS 8 and ABC Montgomery, Ford laid out other plans, too. "We had a hospital when I started, but we lost it when the university closed it. I want us to get a hospital again, and we will. we had Wal-Mart here-twice. I want to get Wal-Mart back again," he said.

Today, Ford says he's still working on his first goal to re-open VictoryLand. Right now, the city is appealing to the 11th Circuit Court, claiming the state raid was a violation of the Voting Rights Act. Until the court rules, Ford says he is in touch with owner Milton McGregor about the casino's future.

"It makes no sense for him to reopen now, and then Luther Strange can come in and shut him down, with the permission of Governor Bentley. But this is not about Milton McGregor. We're the ones who brought Milton McGregor to Macon County."

Another thing Ford promised to bring--a hospital. Ford says the city is starting small, making 24/7 care available at an existing medical center by the end of this year.

"The goal of the hospital may take longer, but that's our ultimate goal. Once we get the urgent care going, then that gives you the basis that you have nurses and doctors and medical people in place," he said.

As for Ford's other goal, a Wal-Mart, the city meets this month with developers about building a retail center off Exit 38, which could house multiple businesses.

"We have already established a commercial development authority which will be empowered to float the bonds to finance the development, for the infrastructure as well as for the specific facilities that will be used for leasing for specific businesses and retail outlets," Ford said.

More businesses are what Tuskegee residents say they want most.

"Compared to last year, we have more businesses coming to Tuskegee, and that's one good thing about it. I hope that right there brings in more revenue and we get more business and students coming in," said Tuskegee resident Claude Travis.

Ford says he can't name specific businesses while talks are still underway, but he says a hotel chain and a restaurant chain are in talks with the city to relocate to the Exit 38 development.

Ford says he has has fulfilled his promise to pay off city debt to the IRS. Tuskegee owed almost 4 million dollars when Ford took office, but he says that has all been paid back.







 

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