Tax incentives for Marino’s Market and funding for drug court approved by Council

One of Birmingham’s longest continually operating grocery stores, Marino’s Market, will be receiving a $1 million tax incentive package from the city to expand their location on Bessemer Road in Five Points West.

Below is the item as it appeared on Tuesday’s agenda:

Marino’s will undertake a project to expand, upgrade, and renovate its Central Park location by expanding the building and enlarging the sales floor to allow room for more varieties of healthy foods, fruits, and vegetables. They will also install high efficiency equipment, and pass their savings along to their customers, according to owner Anthony Marino.

The expansion will involve an investment of approximately $4.2 million by Marino and will result in the creation of an estimated 15 new jobs, in addition to increased tax revenue for the City of Birmingham.

The total cost of the expansion is expected to be $4.5 million and should be completed by the end of the year.

A rendering presented to the Council of the new expansion project at Marino’s Central Park location

Marino’s has been continually operating for 93 years in Birmingham at various locations and providing fresh produce to some of Birmingham’s underserved communities. “The store that we’ve renovated in Ensley has exceeded all the expectations we’ve had,” Anthony Marino told the Economic Development Committee last week. “My dad told me that when you’re a part of the community you better do what you can to improve it. And that has guided me through my whole life.”

Interior of Marino’s Market Central Park location

While the Central Park neighborhood in the Five Points West community is not located in one of the 24 Opportunity Zones in Birmingham, it is a targeted area in which the City will continue to recruit and grow economic development efforts.

“I just think it’s wonderful when we have existing businesses that are willing to expand and not uproot and go somewhere else,” Councilor Steven Hoyt said. “They’ve stood the test of time. You all are making a very positive difference in so many lives in the community. People in the neighborhood that you employ can walk to work there. It’s a no-brainer for us to approve this agreement. We appreciate your business acumen and the personal touch. You get happy when you go in there and fill your basket up and what have you.”

Councilor John Hilliard, who represents the district where Marino’s Market in Ensley is located and chairs the Economic Development Committee, said he is inspired by the work Marino has done in the community for decades.

“I just want to say thank you to Mr. Marino. He also has a store in District 9 and we want to look for a few more spots in our area that would be great for more locations. We need to continue to solve the problem of food deserts in Birmingham. He doesn’t just take from the community, he brings to it and adds to it. We really appreciate your service,” Hilliard said.

Drug Court

Keeping with the theme of improving the quality of life for all of Birmingham’s citizens, the Council also approved an item appropriating $325,000 of federal grant money to the Municipal Court Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program.

It marks the latest installment in the grant funding that the city has received for the drug court program over the last 10 years.

“The city of Birmingham has been able to maintain a drug court for 10 years with funding coming mainly from the federal government,” Judge Andra Sparks said.

“The municipal government has maintained a level of excellence for a decade. That means the citizens of Birmingham. In addition to the money. We’re trying to assist so many citizens in our community that struggle with addiction. We’ve had over 400 graduates from the program. We’ve had hundreds more people who have be exposed to positive drug treatment. I want to thank the Council and the Mayor for their support over the years.”

The program is unique in Alabama, as no other municipality in the state has been able to maintain a drug court program like the one that has been implemented in Birmingham.

The Birmingham City Council Meeting on July 17

Some graduates of the 24-month program can have their records expunged, but the goal is to make sure habitual drug users are empowered and have a chance to get clean as opposed to being incarcerated, thus continuing the cycle of abuse and criminality. The graduations are always an inspiring, emotional event, Sparks said.

“I just want to congratulate you on your programs,” Councilor Sheila Tyson said. “I’ve had the opportunity to come to some of the drug court graduations. This has saved so many young people. Also, the license renewal program within the municipal court has been transformational. It makes me smile. It actually works. I was in a conference in DC and they asked me about this program and I gave them Judge Sparks number. So you can be expecting a call. These programs are obviously making an impact nationally and serving as a model for other communities wanting to take a different approach to drug abuse.”

Tuesday July 17 also marked the beginning of the two-month amnesty program in which residents can go to the municipal court to pay outstanding fines without having to pay additional fees. People with outstanding warrants will not be arrested as they come to take care of their court fees.