‘…could be like Mercedes to Blount County’




The Blount County Commission heard a very optimistic update on the proposed Wallace State Community College campus in Oneonta, at Monday’s meeting.

“The Governor said he was amazed that we were getting (the campus),” said Economic Development Council (EDC) head Don Mitchell.“ He said this is such a unique opportunity and could be like Mercedes to Blount County.”

The commission was updated on the project by Oneonta city manager Ed Lowe, who has taken the lead on the development of the auxiliary campus.

Lowe told the commission that the city’s elected officials were totally committed to the project, no matter what it took, and the project would add in both educational value and the redevelopment of the downtown area.

The current projections have the total cost of the project between $6 million and $10 million and includes a 55,000-square-foot permanent building. It would be built at the site of the current city library and would eventually house not only the Wallace State auxiliary but also the city library and possibly even the EDC office.

Lowe said that sheetrock work is now complete in the old Gargus Pontiac building – the campus’s temporary location – and that building is on schedule to be completed by the end of March.

Commissioner Dean Calvert said that the commission supported the Wallace State initiative.

“Since I’ve been in office,” said Calvert,“this is without a doubt the biggest thing to happen or that has been done. It will definitely help this county’s development.”

According to an impact study done by Wallace State, the construction of the campus will employ 37 with a related income of a little more than $1 million and total spending in the local economy of $6.2 million.

Upon completion, with a full enrollment of 40 sections of classes, the campus will employ 42 with related earnings of $1.9 million and total output of almost $4.4 million annually.

Other development signs positive

Lowe was bullish on other encouraging signs of development.

“After going three full years without a new housing permit, we now have four being built at the same time,” he said.“Plus, we have a new subdivision that has been approved and is being developed now.

“I have had discussions with Jefferson’s (restaurant) and they seem to be very interested (in Oneonta) and we also have had developers interested in the property we just acquired north of Walmart on 75.”

Mitchell echoed Lowe’s upbeat outlook.

“Zaxby’s should close this month,” he said.“They are looking at probably a late April or early May construction start and it really won’t be long to finish after that.

“We’ve also got a couple of projects going in the Hayden area and Spring Valley Beach is going to have a major expansion that we’ll talk more about later.”

Other business

In other business, commission:

•appointed Travis Glasscock to the Pine Mountain Volunteer Fire and Rescue EMS District Board. The five-year term will run through 2020.

•approved sponsoring tables at the Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner ($250) on March 15, the Blount County Children’s Center Banquet ($250) on April 19, and the RSVP Banquet ($100) on May 3.

•approved the purchase of a van for animal shelter transportation of inmates and animals. The purchase, not to exceed $15,000, will be paid from the current budget.

•declared surplus a New Holland tractor from District 1 and authorized J.M. Wood Auction to sell the piece of equipment in March.

•agreed to the purchase of a tractor for District 1, with the purchase to come from state bid or a local qualifying cooperative. District 1 Commissioner Allen Armstrong said the tractor would replace the one declared surplus and would be used for mowing.

•designated April 16-23 as Spring Cleanup Week in Blount County. This is the state People Against a Littered State (PALS) cleanup week. Local communities and are encouraged to work with their county commissioner on individual projects. Probate Judge Chris Green noted that the Blount County PALS chapter is not active.

•agreed to sponsor a youth rodeo in September for $1,500. The rodeo, part of the North Alabama Youth Rodeo Association, will be held at the Blount County-Oneonta Agri-Business Center.

Engineer’s report

County engineer Winston Sitton won approval for three items:

•a variance request concerning lot size for the Cater Subdivsion in Remlap (District 4).

•final plat approval for the same subdivision.

•renewal of the EDKO herbicide contract. Green noted that all four commissioners seemed to be pleased with the performance of the herbicide.

In other engineering matters, Sitton told the commission that Whitaker Construction had completed clearing property along County Road 26 and would begin installation of pipe soon.

Sitton also told the commission that the bridges on Dalton Walker, Gaines and Miller roads would remain closed for the time being. Those bridges were damaged by flooding that resulted from heavy rains on Christmas night.

Citing a conflict, Green asked that the commission move next month’s work session to Wednesday, March 9, as opposed to Thursday, March 10.

The regular commission meeting will be held on Monday, March 14. Both meetings, the work session and the regular session, will start at 9 a.m.

Present at the Feb. 8 meeting were commissioners Armstrong, Calvert, Carthal Self and Gary Stricklin, Green, Sitton, county attorney Jeff Sherrer, county administrator Zac Marsh and several visitors.