Valley in strong financial shape

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 26, 2019

VALLEY — The Valley City Council met in a work session Thursday evening to discuss the final financials from the 2018-19 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30.

Total revenue has risen from $5.8 million in 2012 to $7.3 million this past year.

Five of the past six months, more than $600,000 a month has been generated in sales tax revenue.

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“Our citizens are opening their money at home, and we want to thank them for doing that,” Mayor Leonard Riley said.

Money that stays at home can be put be into infrastructure projects such as road paving and the development of Valley Industrial Park, which creates more jobs.

Riley said he’d recently met with representatives of John Soules Foods to discuss their new plant in Valley.

“I got to meet John Soules Sr., John Soules Jr. and the company CEO Tom Ellis,” he said. “They are eager to get started in Valley. They are a little bit concerned with our very low unemployment rate of 2 percent, but I don’t think it will be a problem for them given what they pay. It may be a problem for other local employers who don’t pay as well. Even in the boom period of WestPoint Pepperell in the 1980s, I don’t remember unemployment being this low. I see help wanted signs all the time in our fast-food places. Anyone who doesn’t have a job now doesn’t want one.”

Riley said the new John Soules Foods plant in Valley will be equipped with robotics and people who are trained in their operation.

“I was really impressed with what they do when I visited their plant in Gainesville, Georgia,” he said. “They will be making chicken strips for the fast food industry and packaged items to be sold at stores like Kroger and Walmart. When they get rolling, they will be producing 140 million pounds of food in a year here in Valley.”

Work will really start moving for the local plant come January.

“They are in the process of getting a contractor and bidding on the pre-treatment plant,” Riley said.

The pre-treatment plant will be needed to handle wastewater releases that will be taking place in the late-night hours.

The company is asking for a six-month extension on their investment plan, mostly due to problems they have had at their main plant in Tyler, Texas.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” Riley said.

The city is looking at selling a 38-acre site off Combs Road for single-family housing development. There could by 45-50 affordable new homes in that area in the coming years. If things go well in the initial build out, there could be hundreds of moderately priced homes in the area at some point.

“I want the entire area to be residential,” Riley said.

The mayor said he was pleased with the way everything had gone with the installation of the new PoolPak at the Community Center pool this past year.

It was one of the city’s capital projects, and it came in well under budget.

The council budgeted $325,000, and it cost a little more than $275,000. It really helped that city employees Toby Sides and Reid Riley were able to do much of the installation work.

Had contractors been hired to do that same work the project was expected to cost more than $400,000.

Recent work on improvements to the CV Trail cost the city a little more than $420,000.

“We were within budget on this,” Riley said, explaining that most of the costs were covered by grants.

Paving projects to be completed in the coming year include some major work on Valley Industrial Drive, Cleveland Road from Highway 29 to 20th Avenue, Columbus Road from School Street to McGinty’s Crossing, the eastern portion of 65th Street, the portion of 33rd Street from Shawmut Circle to 29th Boulevard, Boulevard in Fairfax, 31st Street, 48th Street from Highway 29 to EAMC-Lanier Hospital and 15th Avenue.

Something that helps with sales tax collections throughout the state is an internet tax.

Companies like Amazon are now paying sales tax on items sold in Alabama.

“It’s eight cents on the dollar,” Riley said. “The state gets half of this with the other half being divided between the cities and counties.

One thing that is surprising with the tax figures is that the alcohol tax was up some 10 percent in Valley this past year.

“I don’t ever remember that happening,” Riley said. “It’s always flat. It never goes up. It hasn’t since I’ve been mayor, and it didn’t when I was superintendent.”

The city is now seeing the benefit of the old mills coning down.

“Our water, sewer and fire protection are not as costly as it once was,” Riley said. “It was costly to have those old mills sitting there.”

Riley commended the Public Works Department on having done good work in cleaning off land purchased by the city.

“They have done a lot of work,” he said. “I go by and see it every day.”

The construction of a new water tank for the industrial park has been put on hold due to someone reading an old map.

“They delayed it because of the way the Lanett airport runway appeared on a map,” Riley said.

A water tank off Huguley Road near Rehoboth Baptist Church may have been a problem for the old runway.

That’s been shut down for some time while a new runway with a different flight pattern is being built.

There will be no problem with the water tank with the new one, but someone who looked at an old map threw up a red flag.

“We are waiting on FAA approval but don’t think we will have any problems with the new survey,” Riley said.

Phoenix Fabricators & Erectors, Inc. has been awarded a contract to do the work for just under $1.8 million.

“Hopefully we can bid water lines now that this has been straightened out,” Riley said.

Planning and Development Director Travis Carter talked to the council about cleaning up the Fairfax Mill site.

He said that an official with the EPA’s Atlanta office had looked at the site and that an engineer had sent in a report on what can be done with the debris piles.

“We need to determine how much needs to be hauled off and how much can be buried at the site,” he said.

Carter said he’d submitted a report to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) on a planned erosion control project for the portion of Moore’s Creek that flows through Langdale Meadow in front of city hall, underneath Fob James Drive to Highway 29.

Most of the cost of doing this will be covered by a grant. There will be a cost to the city of around $5,000, which will be reimbursed by Auburn University, which is working with the city on the project.

There will be some stream bed stabilization and lots of native plants put on the banks rather than rip rap.

Riley said he had agreed to a five-year incentive for Four Star Freightliner on their truck sales at the new Valley store.

The mayor said that Valley had such a good year with sales tax collections that he won’t be asking for donations to help with the cost of having the annual Christmas merry-go-round.

“Of course, we will accept donations if people want to give,” he said. “We have had a really good year this year. The merry-go-round will cost us around $32,000 altogether. We can handle that with the sales tax we’ve had. Things are going well for us, and I want to again thank our citizens for shopping at home. We need to start getting some houses built. We need new homes in the right price range, not too low and not too high.”