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Economic development officials tout East Dougherty County industrial park progress

County commissioner says rail service is critical to the industrial park

Dougherty County Public Works Director Larry Cook updates Dougherty County Commissioners on work at the Albany-Dougherty Industrial Park during Monday’s commission work session. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Dougherty County Public Works Director Larry Cook updates Dougherty County Commissioners on work at the Albany-Dougherty Industrial Park during Monday’s commission work session. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — Local economic development officials told the Dougherty County Commission Monday morning that they hope to have the Albany-Dougherty Industrial Park shovel-ready for occupancy by the middle to end of 2015.

The 225-acre park, which fronts on U.S. Highway 82 East and will offer rail service, could serve as a key enticement as the region courts new industry.

“This is a very strategic development,” said Justin Strickland, who will become president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission at the end of a 14-day wait period from the day he was approved for the position by the EDC board. “It fronts on 82, a national highway; it has rail service, and it’s more than 200 acres of mostly flat land.

“Another factor for larger industries is that, because of its location, it could be coupled with the (former) Cooper Tire plant and become a 500-acre tract. A larger manufacturer could buy the Cooper plant and expand into all or part of the industrial park.”

District 6 Commissioner Jack Stone, who has made completion of the industrial park the key issue of his re-election campaign, had requested an update on the site.

“I can’t stress how important it is that we have rail service out there,” Stone said. “It’s not available at our other industrial parks. I also think it’s important that our citizens realize that this work is being funded by their 1 percent (special-purpose local-option) sales tax.”

County Administrator Richard Crowdis told the board work on the industrial park is being financed through SPLOST IV and VI funds. He said $1.2 million of the $2.8 million in SPLOST IV funding was used for land acquisition and that about $385,000 of that funding was still on the books. An additional $2 million was allocated for the project in SPLOST VI.

Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard praised the county’s Public Works crews for their efforts in preparing the industrial site.

“There’s no telling how much in tax dollars we’ve saved through the work of our Public Works folks,” Sinyard said.

County Public Works Director Larry Cook said heavy rains had slowed his staff’s work on the site, but that it would continue with the onset of drier weather.

Asked by District 3 Commissioner Clinton Johnson if there were any prospects who’d shown interest in the site, Strickland said, “We’re showing it continuously.”

Also at Monday’s work session, commissioners engaged in a prolonged discussion of the Finance Committee’s recommendation that a request for $15,000 in funding from the National Youth Sports Program be denied. Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins, who called the annual NYSP program “very deserving,” said there was no money available to contribute to the Albany State University-sponsored program and the other “worthy nonprofits” that would ask for funding if the commission granted the NYSP request.

District 2 Commissioner John Hayes said the board should readdress the request because of the impact of “an organization that pumps a lot of economic value into this community.”

“I would hope we could find a way to fund the program at some level,” Hayes said.

The county had contributed to the NYSP program in the past through a fund from drug fines, but Dougherty Sheriff Kevin Sproul said that fund had been mostly depleted. Crowdis reminded the board that money from that fund could be used only for drug abuse treatment or education programs or in a drug court. Sproul told the board he usually provides an anti-drug program for the NYSP program because “those kids are our future.”

Hudgins asked Hayes, “What would stop other worthy organization that have a significant economic impact on our community from asking for money if we granted (money to NYSP)?”

“I don’t want to debate you on this,” Hayes replied. “I’d hoped we could come to some kind of compromise.”

Solid Waste Director Scott Addison asked the board to approve a 1.6 percent Consumer Price Index-based increase on tipping fees at the landfill effective July 1. Addison said the increase would up landfill charges from $36.98 per ton to $37.57.

“The idea is to make gradual increases so as not to hit taxpayers with a large increase,” Addison said.

The decision on whether to accept the recommendation will be made at a business meeting of the commission.