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Clanton Council approves wetland study funds

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The Clanton City Council voted 4 to 1 in favor of contributing $15,300 for a wetlands study and additional environmental assessment on the future Alabama Farm Center site during a meeting on Aug. 26.

Council members Bobby Cook, Jeffrey Price, Sammy Wilson and Mary Mell Smith voted in favor. Councilman Awlahjaday Agee voted against.

“It is a little frustrating to receive information at meeting time, and as me being an elected official, I feel accountable for spending taxpayers’ money,” Agee said. “The project is an excellent idea, but I just don’t like being bombarded with something and then having to vote to spend taxpayers’ money … It needs to be put on the agenda.”

Mayor Billy Joe Driver and Price agreed.

“It is a little frustrating for our first look to be five minutes before the meeting,” Price said. “If it was on the agenda, that would draw my attention more … obviously, we need to get it done.”

Industrial Development Board Director Whitney Barlow said she had given information on environmental study needs to a member of the council three times.

Barlow said she had presented the need for a wetlands study to the IDB board approximately two months ago, and Driver was present.

The wetland delineation study will give GPS information for specific locations of wetlands on the site and is required when applying for federal grants and before any construction could begin. Barlow said this would also need to be completed before any of the trees on the site could be cut to sell. The study will be done by Terracon — the same company that is doing the rest of the environmental study on the park.

The cost for this study is being split 50/50 by the county and the city, as previously agreed. The county’s portion will come out of funding it already gives to the IDB.

Alfa had paid for a wetland delineation study on the site, but the study, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, did not meet the standards necessary for application for federal grants. Terracon has since submitted the specifications that would be followed to meet the federal funding requirement standards.

Barlow said this study is one that would have been required no matter how the land was developed and should have been done when the land was first purchased. (Barlow was not in her current role at the time.)

“In addition to that, there were underground storage tanks found on the property right away, on the southeast side of the property, which is where an old gas station used to be back in the ’60s,” Barlow said. “We have to do groundwater testing on it. In order for you to get federal money, you have to do groundwater.”

She estimated that it would be January or February before both the wetland study and water testing would be completed.

Also during the meeting, the City Council approved the resignation of Roy Price, Wayne McKinnon and Bonnie Smith from the Industrial Development Board. Mary Mell Smith abstained from the vote. Each member was resigning because of the possibility of wanting to bid on aspects of work needed for the Alabama Farm Center project. The Industrial Development Board is being replaced with an Industrial Development Authority, which will have representation from both the city and the County Commission. Barlow said this is likely to happen in September.