Lanett, CCDA announces purchase of Lanett Mill

Published 3:12 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2019

LANETT — Lanett Mayor Kyle McCoy announced Tuesday that an agreement is in place for the city to purchase the 27-acre Lanett Mill site across heavily-traveled Highway 29. The closing took place on April 23, the day after the council agreed to enter a loan agreement with the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority (AMEA), which would enable the city to purchase the site from Regeneraton LLC for $530,000. It’s a zero percent loan, and the city will have four years to pay it back.

The announcement was made at a press conference next to the LaFayette Lanier Monument.

The mill has been seen as an eyesore by many since the mill’s closure in 2006 and subsequent purchase and demolition by a private entity more than a decade ago.  Lanett is partnering with the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) to redevelop the site as a commercial or light industry zone.

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The purchase becomes final on June 3. Current owner Roy Granger has from now until then to remove his equipment and anything else of value from the site.

The mayor thanked members of the council for the patience they have shown in dealing with criticism about the mill site over the past two-and-a-half years.

“When we’d do something nice like downtown development with the streetscape, people would tell us ‘That’s nice, but what about the mill?’” McCoy said. “When we built new bridges after the Christmas Eve flood or tore down dilapidated housing, they’d again say, ‘That’s OK, but what about the mill?’”

The mayor said he’d never forget hearing his grandfather, the late L.L. Aaron, say that the only way you could control what happened on land was to own it.

“For so long, we had to defend something we had no control of. I am proud to announce the closing of the purchase and that we will be able to do something about it now.”

McCoy said that it had been a long journey for the city to get to this point.

“So many people have put untold amounts of time and energy into making this happen,” he said.

Present for the announcement were current, and some former, city council representatives, the entire staff of the CCDA, Mayor Leonard Riley and wife Debra,  County Commissioner Sam Bradford, County Attorney Skip McCoy, West Point Council Member Sandra Thornton and many civic leaders throughout the Valley.

McCoy thanked CCDA Board President Bobby Williams, AMEA CEO Fred Clark for their long-time help in getting the city to this point.

“Without collaboration and all of our team members pulling together for the betterment of our city, this exciting day would not have been possible,” McCoy said. “This will truly be a game changer for the city.”

“This site has an unlimited future,” Williams said. “It has 2,000 feet of road frontage on Highway 29. It’s near Highway 50 and I-85.”

The process has started to get a federal Brownfields grant, which would expedite the cleanup while assuring the site has not been contaminated by past industrial use.

“We’ve had to take some baby steps,” McCoy added. “We had to do some background work to arrive at a price we could all agree on. We closed one week ago today. This is a new renaissance for our area.”

CCDA Director Valerie Gray said that there should be a very noticeable difference with the site within the next year.

Work will begin in earnest this fall on the cleanup.

“I am very optimistic that somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of what’s there now will be gone by this time next year,” she said. “I know this has been hard on the mayor and council. People were always asking them about what they were going to do about the mill site.”

McCoy said that options are available for the cleanup. City employees and equipment could be used and contractors could be hired.

The purchase of the site was completed using funds from the AMEA Capital Loan Program. The CCDA applied through the program, which is for AMEA member cities.

Brownfields funding would provide direct funding for assessments, cleanup, revolving loans, environmental job training, technical assistance, training and research. To facilitate the leveraging of public resources, EPA’s Brownfields Program collaborates with other EPA programs, other federal partners and state agencies to identify and make available resources that can be used for Brownfields activities.

McCoy concluded that it had been a great day for the city.

“It took a long time for us to be here,” he said. “It’s just a great day for Lanett.”