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Council okays access change

The Demopolis City Council met in special session yesterday, unanimously passing a resolution regarding the sole item on the agenda: the access road for the Airport Industrial Park.

The council took one vote, to approve all of the changes to the resolution: to approve of Debra M. Fox, executive director of the Marengo County Economic Development Agency, as the official Demopolis contact for the project, with Almon and Associates as the official engineering firm and to approve of the monetary changes presented to the council. The motion passed unanimously.

Before the meeting was called to order, city attorney and Demopolis Industrial Development Board attorney Richard S. Manley confirmed for the record that the special session was properly and legally called.

“As I understand it, (council member Jack) Cooley requested by e-mail or letter to the mayor a meeting for tonight earlier in the week — I think Monday,” Manley said. “(Council member Thomas Moore) requested by letter or e-mail to the mayor today, this morning. The city clerk posted the notice of the meeting for the open meeting law on Tuesday, so this is a legally qualifying meeting. I have confirmed those things with the Alabama League of Municipalities less than an hour ago.”

A quorum was also present, including council members Cooley, Moore, Charles E. Jones Sr. and Melvin Yelverton. Mayor Cecil P. Williamson and council member Woody Collins were not present. Moore presided over the meeting.

The items on the meeting agenda included appointing a person of record for a grant application for the Airport Industrial Park access road, to formally proclaim the official architectural and engineering firm of record for that project and to receive an estimated cost of the work to be done by that engineering firm.

John Wallace, vice chair of the Demopolis Industrial Board, requested that the contact person go from Williamson — whose term expires on Nov. 2 — to Fox.

Wallace said that the original requested amount was $3.3 million, proposed by the firm of Goodwin, Mills and Kawood. Wallace said that the amount proposed by Almon and Associates — which the council approved as the project’s engineering firm some weeks ago — was $2,178,218.60.

That will be the amount that a delegation from Demopolis will ask the Alabama Industrial Access Road and Bridge Corp. in Montgomery for on Monday to improve the access road to the industrial park.

Wallace asked the council for a $50,000 cash injection, should that amount be needed.

“My concern is this $50,000 that I know nothing about,” Cooley said. “There’s got to be more of an explanation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s the first I’ve heard that the city would have to come forward with cash at the outset of these projects. My surprise is that tonight, for the first time, we are learning about it.”

“That’s one of the reasons they came here,” Manley said, “to report to you and let you know what they know.”

Asked when the money would be needed if it were needed at all, Manley said that it would be needed in a couple of months.

“We were talking about this being completed, having the road in place by January 2009,” Manley said.

“I thought that everybody was already aware that they would contribute that amount of money,” said Phillip Guin, principal with Almon and Associates, regarding the amount that the two industries, the county, the Demopolis water and sewer board and other entities would be asked to contribute. “I was under the impression that the City of Demopolis would put in $50,000, and that brought (the total contributions) up to $559,000 in local match monies. The more local match monies you have, the better chance you get” of being awarded the grant.

“Right now, we are at 22 percent of the project coming from local monies,” Guin said. “If you wanted to revise that, we can do that and take that $50,000 out. It will lower our match, and I don’t know how (the state board) would take that. Are we contributing enough, in their minds?”

Manley recommended not changing anything in the proposal, as it needed to be ready to bring before the state body on Monday.

“It’s a little late to try to change it up,” he said.

“I understand that, and I’m not trying to put a cog in the wheel to break the spoke,” Cooley said. “We’re back to the same old thing. Here we are at the 11th hour, and $50,000 is mentioned to me and this body for the first time, and I don’t like it.”

“I met with (Demopolis Industrial Development Board chair) John Laney yesterday at noon, and they went over all this,” Manley said. “I don’t know whether John Laney talked with the mayor or pulled it out of his hat.”

“That money is only if it is needed,” Jones said.

The council then voted on and approved the changes made to the original grant bid.

“Primarily, we were here to tell the council what the industrial board hopes to do,” Manley said after the meeting. “The big deal is to put together a package in this local support — industries, city, county — and that’s what you sell the grant with in Montgomery. If the local community is not willing to put up 25, 30 percent, we won’t get it.”

The next scheduled Demopolis City Council meeting will be on Thursday, Oct. 2, at 5:15 p.m. at Rooster Hall.