Valley mayor updates various projects

Published 9:47 pm Thursday, April 25, 2019

VALLEY — There’s a lot of activity going on right now in the City of Valley, and Mayor Leonard Riley talked about it at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley.

Currently in his second term as the city’s mayor, Riley spoke about the city’s recent purchases of about 1,200 acres of land in areas right off of I-85, the vibrancy of Highway 29 south of exit 79 and what’s been going on with John Soules Foods.

The land that’s been purchased near the interstate is in an area designated by Gov. Kay Ivey as an Opportunity Zone. It’s an ideal location for commercial or industrial development.

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“We have land all along a very active investment corridor,” Riley said.

Having ownership of the land is essential. It allows city officials to control what happens there. Much of this land has been cleared of timber with the debris piles burned. This land is now ready for grading, a precondition that developers look for.

A city-owned site off Combs Road is going to be developed into a housing subdivision.

“We’ve been working with a developer on this,” Riley said. “You have to be careful with this. You have to price them right. You don’t want to build houses that are too low or too high.”

Things have gone well with the new WestRock distribution center off Valley Industrial Drive. The 375,000-square-foot building is rapidly filling up, and the company may be looking to expand.

“WestRock is a good company,” Riley said. “They have over 400 people working in their local plant. They have good wages and good benefits. The new distribution center went up in less than 10 months.”

A city-owned lot with interstate frontage was sold last year to Four Star Freightliner for about $400,000.

The truck sales, repair and maintenance company plan to have a groundbreaking in May and to be in business on the site by October. Riley said that this is the kind of business he likes coming into the community. 

A new 750,000-gallon water storage tank is going to be built off Huguley Road near the Rehoboth Baptist Church. This should help provide the kind of water pressure industrial prospects are looking for. Some new water lines and sewer lines will be going in as well.

The site off Fob James Drive formerly owned by Resurrect Antiques is now owned by the city and has good potential for redevelopment.

Riley said Valley had an outstanding year in terms of sales tax collections in 2018 and is having an even better year this year.

“We had an increase in sales tax revenue of $220,000 in 2018, and through the first six months of the current fiscal year it’s up $186,000 over this past year,” Riley said. “Local unemployment is down to 3.2 percent. Our people are working. One thing that’s hurting us is the increase in the price of gas. We want people to know that when they spend their money at home, we will put that money into infrastructure. We’ll be paving streets in the city.”

The mayor said that John Soules Foods has been busy planning the future work at its Valley plant.

There should be a lot of work going inside the building by August or September.

The company plans to have a start-up of production in the fourth quarter of 2020.

They will be building a pre-treatment wastewater plant behind the present building.

The company will be a major customer for the East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire Protection District, using an estimated 12 million gallons of water each month.

New sewer lines and a new pumping station will have to be installed before production.

John Soules Foods will be making an initial $110 million investment in Valley and expects to have a workforce of more than 500 people within five years.

Riley said he’d visited the company’s plant in Gainesville, Georgia, and had been impressed with its cleanliness.

“There’s no odor,” he said. “They even treat the storm water runoff from their building.”

At full production, the company will be processing 140 million pounds of processed chicken per year. Live chickens will be first processed in Montgomery and then shipped to Valley, where the meat will be cut, packaged, frozen and shipped out.

Riley said that the city would be seeking a $500,000 Brownfields grant to help with the cleanup of the Fairfax Mill site. If it’s approved, that will speed up the work that needs to be done there. If not, it will take longer, but the city is committed to doing whatever it takes to turn the site into green space that will be enjoyed by local residents.