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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2005
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EDITORIAL

The Ray Metzger Mess has appropriate sound

The oil filter commercial that tells automobile owners to "pay me now or pay me later" is an appropriate warning to apply to Alabama 20 east.

If City Council members allow that stretch of road to clog because of curb cuts and traffic lights, Decatur residents and business will suffer the consequences for decades.

Calvary Assembly of God church members, who own a major parcel of land along the south side of the highway, have an obvious interest in how the stretch develops. Not only do they plan to build a new sanctuary, they plan major commercial development.

They have only to look at Beltline Road where the congregation's church building is presently to see their future if they don't get help with an interchange. They have a vested interest in ensuring safe entry and exit from their property, and they understand the importance of Alabama 20 to the entire city.

Church members are offering the city a way around repeating the Beltline mistake if a study shows that tax increment financing would repay the estimated $9.2 million interchange cost. The alternative is to install lights and watch traffic become a big mess.

Specifically, church members want the city to give some measure of support to using tax revenue from the development to repay the loan required to build the interchange.

Understandably, the church doesn't wish to spend its money for a study unless the city has some interest in using TIF financing.

The city has no other viable option. The state Department of Transportation isn't apt to pay for an interchange any time soon and funding for upgrading the road to an interstate is years away.

Meanwhile, Calvary Assembly needs to get on with its plans.

Councilman Ray Metzger favors a couple of stoplights and stop-and-go traffic. If that philosophy prevails, the result should be named in his dubious honor for championing such a shortsighted solution to Decatur's most promising area for development.

The council is supposed to vote on the expression of interest in TIF financing next week. It commits the city to nothing, but approving it would be an important step toward avoiding a liability and creating an asset for the city.

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