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Commission approves moving land ownership to cooperative district

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chilton County Commission has approved a limited warranty deed that would change ownership of the future Alabama Farm Center at Alfa Centennial Park site from the Commission and the City of Clanton to the Alabama Agriculture and Exhibition Center Cooperative District.

The vote was 6 to 1 with Commissioners Jimmie Hardee, Randall Kelly, Darrell Bone, Joe Headley, Matt Mims and Chairman Joseph Parnell voting in favor. Commissioner Allen Williams voted against.

Since the land is jointly owned, the Clanton City Council will also have to approve the limited warranty deed before the transfer becomes official. The next meeting of the Clanton City Council is scheduled for Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. The board for the Cooperative District has one appointee each from the Chilton County Commission, the Clanton City Council and the Alabama Farmers Federation.

The agreement would stipulate that the Alabama Farm Center must break ground within 12 months, and have 350,000 square feet of buildings “under roof” in 24 months for the Cooperative District to retain ownership of the property. If these stipulations are not met, the property would go back to being owned jointly by the city and the county.

“They (Alabama Farmers Federation) tell us that they are fully in position to move forward with the original, I think it was 11, buildings that they came to us with in February of 2019,” Parnell said.

During the meeting, Williams expressed concerns that the Commission’s executive session on Jan. 26 had not followed proper procedure. The County Attorney affirmed the decision to go into executive session had followed the proper requirements. State law allows for executive sessions for specific reasons, including potential land purchases and business negotiations.

Williams said that since the discussion involved something that could impact local retailers that local businesses should have been present because they were “impacted parties.”

“When we are discussing funding (for) a retail business, then I think all businesses that are going to be impacted by any action we took should have been invited to that meeting,” Williams said.

Other Commissioners said this was not practical because technically everyone in the county could then be considered an “impacted party” to the Commission’s decisions

A vote cannot be made in an executive session and would have had to be made in regular session when the Commission reconvened. The Commission had voted to discuss a land purchase with the city when it reconvened after the Jan. 26 executive session. Incentives for potential businesses were not mentioned.

“We have not discussed incentives up to this point,” Parnell said.

He said these are discussions that would need to happen for growth in the future because businesses looking at locations that meet their minimum requirements are going to look at “who wants us most.”

Mims said new businesses will have a positive impact on the community, while Hardee commented on the increased jobs that would be available with new businesses.

“They need to come because we are what they want not because we basically pay them to come,” Williams said.

He said locally owned businesses did not receive help to get started and they would be competition to locally-owned businesses.

Parnell commented that the population of Chilton County is lower than surrounding areas and not large enough to appeal to many larger chains and retailers without competitive incentives.

Any future potential incentive would have to be by a vote by the Commission in a public meeting.

A vote based on the request for proposals that had been put out since the last meeting was tabled. During the work session prior to the meeting, Parnell had said the Commission had time before a decision was needed. He commented that the banks that had been approached about responding to the request for proposals were uninterested in providing a revolving line of credit. Borrowing an exact amount of money was preferred by the banks.

Also during the meeting, the Commission:

  • Approved new hires for the road department and the parks and recreation department.
  • Accepted resignations from the road department and the parks and recreation department.
  • Accepted a $6,000 grant for commercial grade picnic tables from Cawaco RC&D.
  • Declared fixing the Courthouse air conditioning an emergency in order to get it fixed by Active Air after a presentation by Brian Paschal. Paschal proposed replacing the chiller with a 80 ton unit that would work with existing parts.