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Proposed I-65 industrial park could benefit EDA member

By Deangelo McDaniel
and Eric Fleischauer

dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com
eric@decaturdaily.com

The first phase of an industrial park proposed by the Morgan County Economic Development Association on Interstate 65 could include property owned in part by its treasurer and board member, Kevin Corum.

Corum holds a one-sixth interest in 75 acres abutting I-65, north of Thompson Road near Hartselle. Corum’s father-in-law, Horace Broom, is an emeritus member of the EDA board.

EDA President Jeremy Nails said the boundaries of the proposed 1,800-acre industrial park are still undecided.

Corum acquired an interest in the property in 1998, before EDA or Hartselle indicated an interest in the property as an industrial park. Corum said his initial plan was to develop residences on the acreage. He and his co-owners looked at locating a hotel there but lost that option when the hotel located at I-65 and Alabama 36.

“You don’t buy property for your health,” Corum said. “You’re in it for a profit.”

He said EDA has made no decisions on the boundaries of the proposed park. He said he would recuse himself from any such decisions if his property is within those boundaries.

“I don’t know how I’d react (if they try to buy my property),” Corum said. “I’m just one-sixth of it. There are others involved.”

Fair market value

He said he would seek fair market value.

“We’re the ones that stuck our neck out and paid money for the property,” Corum said.

Nails would not divulge the preliminary boundaries of the project.

“We are trying to narrow down our focus to find the most suitable location for the first phase,” Nails said.

“I’ve shared with you all I can right now,” he said.

Nails said he couldn’t finalize a preliminary location because more testing and analysis of the property is needed.

“We have not finished our testing and analysis to announce a definite Phase I for the new park,” Nails said. “There is still a lot of work to be done. We will select the most suitable property for the first stage of development based on a number of factors such as known and existing infrastructure, and ease of development.

Two legislators who introduced a bill to facilitate the new park said they were unaware of Corum’s property interest, but were not particularly concerned about it.

“I didn’t realize that he owned any land there, but I know he owns a lot around Hartselle,” state Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, said. “If it’s not like he just bought it, I don’t see a problem.”

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he was unaware of Corum’s ownership, but did not see a problem with it, provided Corum was not involved in decisions on the park’s boundary.

Orr and Grantland introduced legislation to give the Decatur-Morgan County Port Authority countywide jurisdiction. Under existing law, its jurisdiction is limited to three miles from the Tennessee River, well north of the proposed site.

The port authority coordinated the formation of Mallard Fox Creek Industrial Park in 1987. The park has been a major financial success for the area. It is home to major employers, including Nucor Steel Decatur, United Launch Alliance, Worthington Steel, Hexcel and Friedman Industries.

Mallard Fox began with a $9.8 million bond issued by the city of Decatur. Decatur and other governmental entities have paid on that bond with revenue from the Tennessee Valley Authority in-lieu-of tax payments. The contributing entities are Morgan County, Decatur, Hartselle, Priceville, Somerville, Trinity, Eva and Falkville.

The I-65 industrial park, unlike Mallard Fox, would not have barge access. Nails said he did not know if it would have rail access.

Hartselle has been lobbying to bring the park close to the city for almost two years. The municipal governments in Morgan County had a series of meetings about the park in 2006, but failed to agree on a site.

The public meetings stopped, but informal negotiations continued.

Last month, the EDA voted to fund a study of 1,800 acres on the east and west sides of I-65.

The Morgan County Commission withholds TVA money from the various governmental entities for the Mallard Fox bond, but with the bond’s retirement, the county will lose that authority this year, Commission Chairman John Glasscock said.

“We’ll send the cities all of their TVA money,” he said.

TVA sends all of the Mallard Fox funding to the County Commission, which disburses it to the schools and city governments. None of the TVA school money is pledged to the debt.

County Administrator Sybil Atkins said she withholds a percentage of each city’s TVA funds and sends a check to Decatur.

In February, Atkins said she mailed Decatur a $855,875 check, the final amount due on the 1987 Mallard Fox bonds.

The following is a breakdown of what the municipalities and county paid toward the final payment: Decatur, $416,098; Hartselle, $92,713; County Commission, $305,561; Priceville, $12,596; Trinity, $14,224; Falkville, $9,254; Eva, $3,770; and Somerville, $2,656.

“Next year, I’ll have to send all of this money to the cities,” Atkins said.

Glasscock said the county doesn’t want to hold the bonds on the I-65 industrial park. During the meetings in 2006, Decatur city officials didn’t talk favorably about holding the bonds.

Decatur City Council President Billy Jackson met Wednesday with Nails. He said Nails was seeking the city’s support for the new park.

“I’m excited about looking at this because I think it is important,” Jackson said. “He told me they were exploring options.”

Jackson said the municipalities have partnered on things before, but he couldn’t commit the city to anything without discussing it with the council.

Glasscock said Hartselle should probably hold the bonds because the proposed park “is in their backdoor.”

Tankersley said he has not talked with the council, but he didn’t see any problems with Hartselle holding the bonds.

“They will not count against our power to borrow money,” he said.

A second option, Tankersley said, would be creating an authority that has representatives from the county and city governments. He said this could be accomplished without a legislative act.

“But, we’re going to need someone to redirect the funds,” Tankersley said. “The current act expires when the bonds are paid off.”

According to area officials involved in discussions about the I-65 park — Nails would neither confirm nor deny — the preliminary plan calls for Phase I to be northwest of the intersection of I-65 and Thompson Road, an area already supplied with much of the infrastructure needed for the park.

Later phases would be east of I-65. Property owners in the area east of I-65 that might be included in the park, according to county tax records, include Richard Collier; the heirs of Therman Thompson; Ingram Farms; Carrie Lee and Bobby R. King; and Freda Thompson.

EDA board members

The current Morgan County Economic Development Association board members are:

Lynn Fowler, Wally Terry, Trudy Grisham, Kevin Corum, Dee Proctor, Robert Peck, Gary Livingston, Britt Sexton, Marilyn Beck, Sonny Craig, Steve Baggs, Jim Aycock, Eddie Allen, Em Barran, Bob Francis, George Kitchens, Susan Hines and John Seymour.

Those elected to the board this year include Allen, Barran, Francis and Kitchens. Hines and Seymour are new, non-voting members of the board.

Emeritus board members are Dr. George Hansberry, Horace Broom and J.D. Williams.

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