County to purchase wetland credits, if Alfa does not

Published 12:11 pm Wednesday, December 15, 2021

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By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chilton County Commission has approved purchasing the wetland credits required for construction to begin on the Alabama Farm Center site near Interstate 65, Exit 212, if Alfa/ Alabama Farmers Federation does not purchase them by Dec. 17.

The credits allow the project to disturb wetlands at the site by supporting a wetlands preservation project somewhere else in the region.

A motion to take this action was approved unanimously by the commission during its Dec. 14 meeting. Commissioners Darrell Bone, Joe Headley, Randell Kelley and Allen Williams as well as Chairman Jimmie Hardee voted in favor. Commissioner Joseph Parnell abstained on the vote. Commissioner Matthew Mims was absent.

“On behalf of the County Commission, they would be paid through the IDA (Industrial Development Authority),” Hardee said.

Dec. 17 is the deadline to pay the remaining $875,000 needed to secure the credits.

“If Alfa forfeits, these wetland permits will be in our control, if we pay the money,” Williams said.

At its last meeting, the commission had approved reimbursing Alfa/ Alabama Farmers federation for a one-third of the cost to extend the deadline for the wetlands permit for the property.

Also related to economic development, the commission approved contributing matching funds for an Economic Development Administration COVID grant, if the county receives the grant.

The grant would be for $1.9 million for a wastewater treatment plant for Interstate 65, Exit 200. The local match would be 20% of the grant amount.

Bone, Headley, Kelley, Parnell and Hardee voted in favor. Williams voted against. Commissioner Matthew Mims was absent.

“To me, it is not a feasible thing for the county to get into the sewer business,” Williams said.

IDA Executive Director Whitney Barlow said maintaining the treatment plant would be handled by a contracted company. She said the cost for this service would be offset by the revenue generated by the companies that locate there.

Kelley asked for confirmation that the sewer treatment plant was crucial to the development of the area. Barlow confirmed that it was.

“Multiple people have said they do not want to drive to Montgomery and Birmingham any more to work,” Barlow said. “The only way that we can develop industry is to develop sites and the only way we can develop sites is to develop infrastructure.”

Williams asked if there was at least a 50/50 chance someone would locate at the Exit 200.

“50/50, yes sir,” Barlow responded.

The commission had met in an executive session prior to the vote to discuss this and the potential need to purchase property for this project in the future.

Declaring a piece of county-owned property near the jail surplus with the intent to sell it was also discussed.

Hardee said someone had expressed interest in purchasing the property at the appraised value.

Bone, Williams, Kelley, Parnell and Hardee voted in favor. Headley voted against. Commissioner Matthew Mims was absent.

“That is the best piece of property over there … for anything you want to do,” Headley said.

Williams said the property was too small, and Kelley and County Engineer Tony Wearren gave information that had been gathered five years ago on the cost to develop the land.

Land tests at the time found the land not suitable for construction and cost was estimated at $150,000 – $250,000 to make the property suitable.

Hardee said a survey was being done on the property, then it could be sold.

A motion to sell the property was approved.

Bone, Williams, Kelley, Parnell and Hardee voted in favor. Headley voted against. Commissioner Matthew Mims was absent.