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MCEDA updates commission on economic progress

Chris Bontrager from Marengo County Economic Development Authority updated the commission on recent economic developments in Marengo County. He said that the unemployment rate is currently at 4.16 percent, which is the lowest it’s been in history and the county is “getting real close to full employment.”

Bontrager said that once it drops to 3-3.5 percent, the issue to address will be underemployment.

“That means folks do have jobs, but they want other opportunities. They need training to look at other opportunities.”

He said he believes that the Shelton State Community College campus in Demopolis has had a positive impact on the county and will continue to do so.

“The momentum of Shelton State coming on is going to be a huge benefit for us. And this next year when they really get ramped up, that will help us fully address some of those issues on unemployment,” Bontrager said.

The biggest investment seen in 2017 was the expansion announcement with Two Rivers Lumber Company, which resulted in a $6 million investment and 35 jobs for the county.

Another notable development was three industrial parks within the county gaining AT&T Fiber Ready certification, which means that they are up-to-date in fiber technology.

There are also three active, ongoing projects from 2017, but officials are not ready to announce what those projects are just yet. Each one is expected to bring in 15-20 jobs.

Bontrager said that his biggest focus for 2018 is property development. He is proposing that the county’s industrial parks participate in Alabama’s AdvantageSite program, which certifies that it is a thoroughly-prepared site to aid in recruitment for industrial prospects.

Other items discussed by the commission are as follows:

• Dr. William Ashley, president of Shelton State Community College, gave an overview of the Demopolis campus to the commission during the public comments. He provided enrollment statistics and a scope of the campus’s operations.

• The commission unanimously approved the tax agreement with Revenue Discovery Systems, which was a three-year renewal.

• The commission unanimously approved the county levies for alcohol licensing set by the state.

• The commission unanimously adopted the Grand Jury Report.

• The commission unanimously approved the EMA and Tobacco Tax CD with no plans to move the Tobacco Tax CD from Sweet Water State Bank or the EMA Tax CD from First Bank of Linden.

• The commission announced that they received the $24,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant for the Sheriff’s Department to purchase a new vehicle.

• The commission unanimously approved an increase the county’s garbage rate effective April 1. The monthly rate will increase by $2.

• The commission unanimously approved a map of the polling places in Marengo County made by Barry Hunt of the Marengo County Board of Registrars. The map was required by Alabama Secretary of State’s office and Reapportionment office and will be fine-tuned by Keet Consulting Services, LLC (KCS), the voting registration software which purchase was approved with price negotiation in December.

• The commission discussed placing a light at the stop sign at the intersection of County Road 19 and Country Road 21, but no motion was made at that time.

• The commission unanimously approved the Thomaston water expansion project being rebid. The project will provide water to residents along County Road 53.

• The commission took into consideration the condition Barneys Upper Road and asked City Engineer Ken Atkins and Commissioner Thompson to discuss options for repair.

• Atkins agreed to return at the next meeting with a proposal do striping on some county roads. He will bring a list of roads for the commission to review.

The Marengo County Commission meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 9 a.m. in the Marengo County Courthouse in Linden. Meetings are open to the public.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, February 17 issue of the Demopolis Times.)