Demopolis joins AdvantageSite to lure industry

Published 2:41 pm Monday, February 26, 2018

City Council approves funding increase for DACC

The Demopolis City Council has agreed to participate in Alabama AdvantageSite — an industrial site preparedness program — for a location in the Airport Industrial Park.

According to Marengo County Economic Development Authority Director Chris Bontrager, the AdvantageSite program allows for increased marketing of sites as well as confirming for potential industries that the site meets certain standards.

“This program verifies the readiness of a property,” Bontrager said. “It assures companies coming in that these sites are ready and our community is prepared.”

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The program will confirm for prospective industries that items such as environment and geotechnical studies have been completed as well as verifying other details about the property.

“This could put Demopolis higher on the list of properties that industries want to come and look at,” said Councilman Bill Meador.

The council voted unanimously to enter the AdvantageSite program and spending $22,500 to move forward, partnering with the engineering firm of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood.

According to Bontrager, the Demopolis Industrial Development Board and the Linden Industrial Development Board will also discuss participating in the program.

AdvantageSite, managed by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, is described as a teamwork approach between the private sector and state and local governments geared toward having prepared product and materials ready for industrial prospects, according to the EDPA’s website.

Other items discussed by the city council included:

• the council voted to increase the annual budgeted spending for the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber officials had requested at a previous meeting for the city’s increased financial support allowing the chamber to offer health and other benefits. Health benefits have not been part of the chamber director’s pay package in previous years.

Chamber Board Member Ben Sherrod said the organization would need an increase of $15,000 annually to provide the benefits. He added the providing benefits could lead to stronger candidates to fill the position, which has been vacant for seven months.

Laney proposed that any increase of funding to the chamber should be done for a specific period of time.

“If we do it, we should do it for a period of 4-5 years, allowing (the city) to withdraw if things aren’t working out. If things to work out with the new director, the chamber should be making more money and could handle (paying the benefits) themselves,” Laney said.

The council voted unanimously to increase chamber funding from $45,000 annually to $60,000 for a period of five years at which time the funding will be reviewed. The chamber will not receive additional funds until a director is hired.

• Laney reported to councilmembers that vacancies are upcoming for the city’s Board of Adjustments and Hospital Building Board.

• the council also discussed with Public Safety Director Tommie Reese the current status of safety at local schools and how safety might be improved.

“This is a topic that has come up in light of what happened in Florida,” Laney said.

Currently, the DPSD works with the Demopolis School System in funding two part-time School Resource Officers (SRO), which split their time between the four city campuses.

“We need full-time police protection at all four schools, not just part-time,” Reese said. “It would be great to have four SROs, but we can’t afford it.”

Reese said he has been seeking out additional grant funding that might help provide additional resources for school safety. He added that, ultimately, it would be up the city and school system to keep local students safe.

“Everybody in Washington feels sorry about it today, and tomorrow everyone forgets about it. If we want to take care of Demopolis we’ll have to do it on our own,” he said.

The issue was referred to the council’s Public Safety Committee for discussion and possible recommendations.

• Laney reported that three designs have been submitted for an obelisk that will be placed atop the downtown monument. No action was taken.

• the mayor congratulated the Street Department and Barbara Blevins upon being named a Tree City, USA for 2017.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 1, 5:15 p.m. at Rooster Hall. The public is invited to attend these meetings.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, February 21 issue of the Demopolis Times.)