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Industrial park obstacle
Legislation for possible location near Hartselle can’t happen without Decatur council’s backing, funds

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Decatur may not agree to legislators diverting its TVA money to an industrial park on the Interstate 65 corridor, possibly between Hartselle and Falkville.

“I know we’ve got to move this along, but there is discussion still to be had,” Mayor Don Kyle said. “I’ve talked with three councilmen at different times, and we’re still getting comfortable with the legislation.”

Council President Billy Jackson is more direct.

“I can’t justify to the people of Decatur spending at the same level,” he said.

“I’m not against using some of the TVA money, but this is in Hartselle’s back door.”

No definite site has been selected, but the EDA has identified 1,800 acres between Hartselle and Falkville as a possible park location.

Jackson said Decatur will not receive the same impact the city received from Mallard Fox Creek Industrial Park. He said he has to use the city’s tax dollars “wisely and practically” and be able to justify his decision to Decatur voters.

Kyle said Decatur’s money would better serve the county if split into two pools: one for the industrial park and another to offer economic incentives anywhere in the county.

“I know we need to pick up the pace and move quickly because legislators want it to be in this regular session,” he said.

If the county’s largest municipality does not unanimously agree to divert the money, then Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said they will not introduce the diversion legislation.

“I just can’t divert the money without resolutions from the government bodies in the county,” Rep. Ronald Grantland said.

“Everybody needs to be on board about what will happen with the TVA money,” said Orr.

45% from Decatur

Over a 20-year period, Decatur contributed about 45 percent of the funds to retire the $9.8 million Mallard Fox Industrial Park debt. The city’s last payment for the park was $416,098, compared to $92,713 from Hartselle and $305,561 from the County Commission.

Grantland said Decatur paid the most because it has the largest population. If the council doesn’t fund at the same level, “it’s going to mess up the whole thing,” he said.

Although some of the county’s smaller municipalities have not passed the resolution, Grantland said Decatur is the holdup.

“We’re going to find a way to fund the park, but it would help a lot if Decatur funded at the same level,” Grantland said.

Legislation expiring

He said the legislation that diverted a portion of the county’s TVA money for Mallard Fox Creek Industrial Park expires this year. Grantland is prepared to sponsor the legislation in the House, and he wants to do so during this legislative session that ends June 15.

But, so far, only Hartselle, the County Commission, Trinity and Falkville have passed resolutions that Morgan County Economic Development Association President Jeremy Nails prepared.

‘Worried about time’

“The act has to be advertised four weeks before I can sponsor the legislation,” Grantland said. “Right now, I’m worried about time.”

Hartselle Mayor Dwight Tankersley said the previous funding arrangement wasn’t based on the park’s location and this one shouldn’t be either.

“I don’t understand why — since it’s at a different location — someone should fund at a different level,” he said.

Tankersley said the park can happen without Decatur’s full participation; however, it will take longer and the park probably will be smaller.

As for Hartselle providing more funding, the mayor said: “I can’t commit more money without the council being involved and discussing what that would do to our budget.”

Grantland and Orr have sponsored legislation to expand the power of the Decatur-Morgan County Port Authority beyond the three-mile limit from the Tennessee River allowed under current law.

The bill allows the port authority to develop motels, restaurants, coffee shops, stores, warehouses, factories, manufacturing plants, office space and other commercial buildings, including industrial parks.

This legislation, however, is different from the bill needed to divert TVA funds. Tankersley said the new bill lets the county governments establish a “cooperative district” to receive the TVA funds and use the money for an industrial park “along the I-65 corridor from county line to county line.”

He said the park may be in Hartselle, but the entire county will benefit, including Decatur residents.

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