Welcome to SARPC's digital newsletter. Our goal is to publish a newsletter bi-monthly that provides highlights of projects and activities being undertaken at the agency. If you have any questions or would like to request additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
In This Issue

As we continue through these times of uncertainty it seems refreshing and exciting to have great economic development news in our Region. In Baldwin County, ALDI announced the location of a distribution center and regional corporate offices in Loxley at the  I-10 exit. In Mobile County, a large project on the Theodore Industrial Canal was announced that will be a huge investment with many jobs. Also, a huge project that SARPC is involved with could be announced in the near future in Escambia County. Yes, among the COVID-19 crisis there is very  positive news in our Region and the SARPC staff is very involved in enhancing the quality of life in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia Counties!! Please stay safe and GOD BLESS AMERICA!


John F. "Rickey" Rhodes

Executive Director
South Alabama Regional Planning Commission
Post Office Box 1665
Mobile, AL 36633                                                                   
Business Line: (251) 433-6541
Direct: (251) 706-4667
Cell: (251) 421-9400
Fax: (251) 433-6009

  Visit the official Alabama Counts Census website at  Census.Alabama.gov


Mobile MPO Updates

There is a Mobile MPO Policy meeting scheduled for August 19th via GOTO meeting; prior to the MPO meeting there will be a TCC/CAC meeting of the Mobile MPO on July 29th via GOTO meeting.
The agenda is to include the following:
  • Adoption FY 2021 Unified Planning Work Program (planning budget)
  • Modify 2020-2023 Transportation Improvement Program
  • Cost estimate change for 100040584 (CN) US98, EB lanes from MS state line to .5 Mile East of Glenwood Rd, from $18.2M to $23.9M, FY 2022
  • Cost estimate change for 100033461 (CN) ADDL lanes on I-10 from CR-39 to Carol Plantation, from $33.4M to $41M, FY 2021
  • 100071946; PE; 5 Year Regional Traffic Operations (RTOP) TSMO for 130 Signalized Intersections Along SR-59, SR-16 (US-90), and SR-42 (US-98) Target Start Date : 8/1/2020; $2,631,200
  • Update Performance Measures
  • Review of Financial Agreement
  • Review of Demand Response Transit Study
  •  Potential TAP projects
RPO Updates

DRAFT 2021 RPO Work Program is now available for review. The RPO work Program is the staff budget for SARPC Rural Planning Organization. This draft is identical to the current work program. The DRAFT 2021 Work Program is available on the RPO Webpage HERE.

Mobile Area Transit System Feasibility Study

SARPC staff is continuing to meet (virtually) with Via, and Goodwyn, Mills, and Cawood, for the feasibility study. The current health crisis has affected the potential outcome of the study. The intent of the study was to find potential local sponsors to match federal funds to create a transit system to operate throughout Mobile County to connect with WAVE Transit. The sponsors would have provided assistance through subscriptions or contracts for commuter trips. The current price of gasoline, and the threat of contracting virus on buses, may put a strain on ridership of a new system. However, there are still people in need of transportation, and there is some thought that regardless of the price of gasoline, there will be an increased number of distressed people due to the economy, that will need transportation. This may be the perfect time to consider transportation throughout Mobile County.
Please review the Tasks 1, 2 and 3 HERE.
There will be a stakeholder meeting scheduled in the near future to discuss the draft report that came out his week. This will be a GOTO meeting.
The Draft Report is HERE.

DRAFT 2021 Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) is now available for review.
The Draft 2021 UPWP is essentially the budget of the Mobile MPO staff. Typically in June of every year, MPO staff reviews the draft document with MOP Policy Board Members and the subcommittees, prior to submitting the draft UPWP to ALDOT and federal agencies for review. Because of the COVID-19 virus disruption our MPO meeting schedule, the draft document was submitted to ALDOT to review without committee review. The document is almost identical to the current UPWP, with the exception of no new third party contracts. The DRAFT 2021 UPWP is available for review HERE.

The LRTP is multimodal in scope, and is based on public input, and a travel demand forecast model. In 2019, an online survey was conducted with almost 150 respondents. Questions ranged from where is the worst congestion, what roads need improvements, problems with the transit systems, etc. There were a lot of comments about the I-10 Mobile River Bridge and the potential for tolls. Prior to the online survey, staff also conducted a South Alabama Freight Forum, which was an opportunity to hear from large manufacturers and trucking companies, to find out what the top issues are concerning the movement of freight in South Alabama. The Bicycle / Pedestrian plan was updated, and the public transit section was authored by the Wave Transit, less the Demand Response Transit Study. The Climate Change element, or Extreme Event Planning, remained almost unchanged from Destination 2040 LRTP.

The LRTP Envision 2045 was adopted by the Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization on April 22, 2020.

More information on the new plan can be found at https://www.envision2045.org/

Transportation Improvement Program( TIP)

The TIP represents a four year program (2020-2023) for improvements in the various transportation systems located within the Mobile study area as identified in the Mobile MPO's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), the twenty-five year plan for the Mobile Urban Area Destination 2040. The LRTP establishes the transportation programs that are needed to meet travel demand by the study year and study area. LRTP projects that become funded are moved into the TIP and submitted to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), where they are programmed into the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). For MPO projects, TIP project selection is based on priorities established by MPO member governments and the availability of funds through the Surface Transportation Attributable program. For other projects, ALDOT has discretion of project funding based on availability of funds from various types of funding categories.  Most often, projects in the TIP are derived from the LRTP. The TIP guides ALDOT in its annual allocation of funds for transportation improvements and becomes a part of the STIP.
ArcGIS Online is now being utilized by MPO staff to map all federally funded surface transportation projects within our area. Check it out.
2020-2023 E-TIP HERE


Our staff is currently working on the following projects:
  • Administering the ADECA Grant and EDA Grant for Brewton;
  • Continue to work with the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission to prepare the Division A Hazard Mitigation Plan
  • Continue working with the City of Prichard, City of Semmes, City of Creola and the Town of Dauphin Island with creating new zoning ordinances;
  • Continue to coordinate with and assist with the 2020 Census Complete Count process;
  • Attend monthly Planning Commission Meetings, in person, or by way of Zoom, of 19 municipalities that do not have planning staff; and also,
Census Update
The Alabama current on-line response rate is 59.6%. The Census reporting date has been extended to October 31st. Mailouts will occur at the end of July to the homes that have not responded to the online census survey. Field surveys will be conducted August 11 through October 31. House to house survey personnel will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). August 12th will be a "Drop everything and get counted" Day.
EDA/DRA Grants
Assisted the City of Atmore with EDA/DRA Grant Applications. These grants will support a rail spur and create a transload yard.
Regional EDA Grant
We recently submitted a grant to EDA to create an Economic Strategic Plan. This plan will benefit our Region by identifying industry sectors that had little or no impact from the Covid-19 Pandemic. This Economic Strategic Plan is intended to identify those industry sectors that are not susceptible to a pandemic that we can expand upon, and also identify new industries that can adapt to changing environments that would excel in our Region. There is a second part to this grant that will create a Workforce Development Plan. The Workforce Development Plan will implement the Economic Strategic Plan.   This grant is 100% funding and is for $400,000.00.
Our CEDS will be an adjustment and include an update that will include the Covid-19 Pandemic and the impact it has had on our Region.


Mature Staffing Service (MSS)

The impact Covid-19 has had on the Mature Staffing Service is unprecedented. All the After School Child Care workers lost their jobs when the schools closed down and there were be no summer programs as well. However, the Baldwin County Schools will reopen on August 12. Therefore, the After School Child Care Programs will resume.  
Even in these difficult circumstances, MSS staff has continued to reach out to government entities and non-profit organizations to discuss Mature Staffing Services. A new relationship is developing with Coastal Community College. We anticipate them using MSS services to fill their staffing needs as well as MSS receiving prospects through their student body, for placement in job openings.
We are currently recruiting for the following positions:

Bay Minette area
Custodian (sweep, mop, dust, etc.)
Pay $10.78/hr.
M-F 5:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
One month assignment

Robertsdale area
Warehouse Work (load/unload inventory and organizing)
Pay $10.78/hr.
M-F 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
One month assignment

Robertsdale area (Need possibly 6-8 workers)
Solid Waste Laborer (Cut grass, weed eating, etc)
Pay $12.96/hr
M-F 6:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Fulltime temp position                                                  
Please help us get the word out regarding job openings. Contact Shannon Raley @ 251-706-4639 for more information.

Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)

Due to the "stay-at-home" order all SCSEP participants were given the option to stay at home with no pay, allowing them to add days/time to the duration they could be on the program or stay at home with pay, which would deduct hours from their duration on the program.
Initially, all of our participants elected to stay at home with pay. However, now that some of the host agencies are reopening, without access by the public, there are a few SCSEP participants who have  returned to their assignments. Some of the participants remain uncomfortable with the increase of COVID-19 cases and therefore, will continue to receive the Emergency Sick Leave payments.  
We received an update from the State SCSEP Director indicating the CARES Act has provided participants an additional three hundred and sixty-five (365) days in the program. Therefore, this will make it easier on them to have continued wages and for us to keep the number of participants up.
Revolving Loan Fund (RLF)

In the midst of the "stay-at-home" order, staff continues to accept and review loan requests. Also, we continue to provide resources to those seeking funding and those needing guidance for starting a business. Oddly enough, the interest in starting a business has increased during this time.
Several of our clients had received the federal relief dollars (such as PPP & Economic Injury grants) and some were applying for the City of Mobile grant as well.
Meetings to promote our services have been conducted via conference calls, Skype or Zoom.


Combating Social Isolation

The Area Agency on Aging has a new pilot program to provide some animatronic dogs and cats to seniors with dementia. Studies have shown these robotic pets have served to calm, entertain and reduce social isolation in 80% of persons with some degree of dementia. A case in point is the response to a pet recently provided to Ms. Thompson, a resident at Azalea Gardens Nursing Home in Mobile. She practically did not speak, but now she is not only talking to her dog, she takes it everywhere and is telling everyone about him, a real success story. 

Combating Isolation with a Robotic Pet

Our seniors receiving home delivered meals and lonely seniors who call into our office are now being called for friendly phone visitation by SARPC's receptionist, Ms Denson, and this is being well received.  We have also requested that staff of all senior centers call seniors they serve while they are closed during the pandemic. In addition, our South Alabama RSVP volunteers are sending cards of friendship to residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities who are not able to visit in person with family and friends while these facilities restrict outside visitors.

Offering More On-Line Content

Due to safer at home orders and social distancing the Area Agency on Aging is offering more on-line content.  All senior centers remain closed to the public coming into the buildings. Our Alabama Cares (caregiver) program is offering regular teletown halls with AARP Alabama on topics such as caregiving during the pandemic, disaster preparedness, and services and programs offered by the Area Agency on Aging.  We have entered into a contract with Trualta, a highly rated on-line caregiver education platform, and we will have the opportunity for 100 caregivers to receive these services in place of the Caregiver Colleges we had previously offered. We have also changed our Chronic Disease Self-Management Program to a home study and small conference call format, that includes shipping free course toolkits to participants' homes. We are increasing our Facebook presence, and utilizing GoToMeeting, Zoom and Facebook live. We have begun a Senior Center Without Walls project, which is in the planning stage, to offer a large variety of on-line recreational, educational and social interaction opportunities for participants of senior centers and other seniors in our community.  This is a long term project as more and more people are taking advantage of on-line platforms in lieu of in-person events. Stay tuned for the launch of this project in the next newsletter.
Senior Meal Programs

The AAA was able to bring the  Farm to Families food box program  to Baldwin and Mobile counties for 5 Tuesdays in June, providing 118,020 pounds of fresh foods to 5,620 persons impacted by the pandemic that included dairy, meat, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. This was made possible through a partnership with our food vendor, GA Foods. These boxes were distributed at The Pantry @ Central (Presbyterian) in Mobile and Prodisee Pantry in Spanish Fort.

A Farm to Family Food Box

Home Delivered Meals

Since the pandemic, the AAA has experienced increased demand for meals from seniors due to safer at home orders and avoidance of shopping. Through Cares Act funding we have significantly increased the number of seniors receiving frozen home delivered meals. Since March 377 new persons have been added and we are currently serving 866 persons who receive frozen home delivered meals. These meals are in addition to meals provided through all the SAIL Senior Centers.
Senior Nutrition Centers  

Senior Nutrition Centers remain closed, but continue providing meals, friendly phone visiting, and some special surprises for seniors picking up "to go" meals. We have 26 senior centers currently operating, with 19 providing hot meals to go and hot home delivered meals, the other 7 centers provide frozen meals for pick up and home delivery.  We have had one senior center permanently close as of June 2020, the Providence Senior Center operated by Providence Hospital/Ascension Health. The Little River Senior Center will temporally suspend operations due to staff illness as of August 1st.
Medicaid Waiver Program 

Case managers resumed field visits to clients in June, after being temporarily suspended due to the pandemic in late March. New clients are being enrolled and referrals are being processed much faster due to the State allowing for more program growth. The South Alabama Regional Planning Commission is  pleased to have one of the highest growth in clients served by our Medicaid Waiver program in the state, due to the hard work of our Medicaid Waiver team. We have added 204 new clients since October 1, 2019, with 874 approved this year and 776 currently active clients, approximately 100 more actively receiving services than on October 1. This program allows the elderly and disabled to receive services at home to avoid or delay nursing home or other institutional placement.
October Special Events

The Mobile and Baldwin County Senior Expos, the Gulf Coast Masters Games and the Alabama Masters Games have all been cancelled to protect the safety of the older adults who attend. The Area Agency on Aging will also provide our Medicare Open Enrollment events this Fall 2020 through on-line content, phone calls and utilizing mail and FaceTime conversations.

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