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L-R: Grady Batchelor (standing), Commissioner Randy Tucker, and Chairman Roger Hayes.

L-R: Grady Batchelor (standing), Commissioner Randy Tucker, and Chairman Roger Hayes.



Chad Fell
Senior Reporter

DOUBLE SPRINGS  – Winston County has been declared a distressed area or recovery zone through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, meaning the county is eligible to receive possibly up to $2 million in economic development bonds and up to $4 million in facility bonds from the $25 billion made available through the U.S. Department of Treasury to local municipalities facing plant closings with high numbers of unemployment.

The Treasury announced the $25 billion in direct allocations of Recovery Zone Bonds for economic development projects in the face of hard economic times that have left counties in need of funding economic development projects.

Grady Batchelor, president of the Industrial Development Authority of Winston County Alabama, requested the Winston County Commission approve a resolution declaring Winston County a Recovery Zone area at the commission’s Monday, Nov. 9 meeting. After hearing Batchelor’s presentation, commission chairman Roger Hayes and commissioners Randy Tucker and Tommy Farmer approved the resolution.
“What the commission did today, by passing the resolution, is to establish Winston County as a recovery zone due to job loss and facilities closing,” Batchelor mentioned. “It does include the entire jurisdiction of Winston County. That means nowif an eligible project was to come forward that we have everything set in place for the county and industrial development authority to be able to work with industry.”

As part of President Barak Obama’s efforts to stimulate economic growth and jump start financing termed critical toward recovery, the Treasury department announced the $25 billion targeting area specifically affected by job loss while helping local governments obtain funding for much needed economic development projects.

This will help county or large municipalities (100,000 or more in population) to receive allocations based on unemployment, foreclosures or general economic distress. Batchelor told commissioners that since none of Winston County’s five municipalities had a population of 100,000, the resolution approving the Distress Zone could be made for the county as a whole.
“…To help where there are industries willing to locate and or infrastructure projects associated with industry to help create jobs,” Batchelor noted.

A breakdown of the $25 billion distributed among municipalities throughout the nation allocated $10 billion for Recovery Zone Economic Development bonds  allowing state and local governments to obtain lower borrowing costs  through a new direct federal payment subsidy for 45 percent of the interest.

From the $25 million also comes $15 billion in Recovery Zone Facility bonds–a traditionally tax-exempt private activity bond that may be used by private businesses in designated recovery zones to finance a broad range of capital projects.

This means Winston County is eligible for an allocation of $2.9 million in the Recovery Zone development bonds to go toward infrastructure toward creation of jobs.

The county is also eligible for $4.3 million in facility bonds toward a qualifying industry to acquire facilities or property or for an incoming facility or make improvements  such as expansion of existing facilities.
“Creating the conditions for economic recovery requires addressing the challenges facing state and local governments,” mentioned Tim Geithner, secretary of Treasury. “State budgets have been scaled back and local services cut at a time when they are most needed.”

Geithner also said the Recovery Act is in efforts to hopefully “turn things around”  in helping state and local governments obtain funds to revitalize for jobs and industry.  “It means they are eligible for it, for qualified projects that the county authorizes or approves,” noted Batchelor. “It does not commit the county to any funding of a project.”  The funding means the issuer (public entity) files an IRS form 8038 in order to receive 45 percent direct subsidy reimbursement from Treasury to offset what the public entity pays to investors in high taxable interest.

“This is a boost in terms it provides yet another financing vehicle for an industry or for the county that is working to do some kind of project that will help create jobs,” said  Batchelor. The entities must still go to the bank and have a letter of credit, but the funding will help offset expenses incurred for such projects in the county.

Figures for counties near Winston show Cullman is eligible to receive $4.1 million in economic development bonds and $6.1 million in facility bonds; Franklin County $3.3 million in economic development and $5 million in facility bonds; Lawrence County $2 million in economic development and $3 million in facility bonds.

Those with questions, can contact Batchelor at (205) 269-1780.

Among other commission business, Jon and Dana Hart of Sipsey Pike addressed the commission about major road concerns. “Quite frankly, the road is falling apart. It is getting to the point it is dangerous to drive on,” Jon told commissioners.

“We have got something worked out on that,” responded chairman Hayes. Road engineer Chris Barnwell, who was in attendance, noted the county would be working on the dangerous sections of the pike around the spring. “We have checked that thing about three different times,” Barnwell said.

“The one who put the road in, would they not be responsible for not putting it in correctly,” Dana said. Barnwell responded the one installing the road is responsible for its upkeep for five years. “Two months after this road was put in, it was falling apart,” Dana added.

Jon said traffic must drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid the dangerous places at Sipsey Pike, and near head-on collisions have occurred.

Eddie Pike of Old Houston Road then addressed commissioners about the need to obtain a 120X145 foot section of road near Douglas Lane that has been chained off and not maintained for at least 20 years in order to build a dock on Smith Lake to satisfy requirements from Alabama Power.

Pike told commissioners he had a survey of the land and from the corner of his property to the desired property is about 121 feet. “I would like to ask the commission vacate that to my property which is lot number 26,” Pike said.

Barnwell said the county would need proof the property had been abandoned for 20 years. If not, it automatically reverts back to the land owner.

“We can look at it, but sometimes you have another side to it,” mentioned county attorney Hobby Manasco. He told Pike all adjoining landowners would have to sign a petition in favor of Pike’s request and notice given of a public hearing. “If it’s a public road, does the public need access to the lake,” Manasco mentioned as  a question to consider.

Commissioner Farmer said he had spoken with an individual recently that had purchased property in the areas, so that should be considered.

“If anyone objects to this, the county commission is out of it,” Hayes told Pike. “It goes to court…you’re on your own.” It was noted Pike would consider the recommendations of the commission before further action is taken. Manasco informed him he was headed in the right direction but had a long way to go to accomplish his request.

Among other business, the commission approved for emergency management director James Burnett to attend the Managing Flood Plain Development Through National Flood Insurance program Nov. 30-Dec. 4 at Auburn.

The commission approved to close the courthouse and annex Wednesday, Nov. 11 for Veterans Day and Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27 for Thanksgiving.

Shannon Lollar and Shane Cook were appointed as two of the non-elected board members for the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments. Concerning road department business, the commission approved First National Bank, finance Dura Maxx Dura Patcher at 3.285 percent for five years and Barnwell to attend the bridge inspection refresher course Nov. 18-19. The next commission meeting will be Monday, Nov. 30, 9 a.m.

Reprinted with permission of the Northwest Alabamian.

County will be eligible for major ED funding

By Chad Fell
Senior Reporter


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