Council approves tax abatement for John Soules Foods

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, February 26, 2020

VALLEY — In a busy session on Monday, the Valley City Council accepted bids for paving and water improvements in Valley Industrial Park, approved a tax abatement for John Soules Foods, approved two zoning ordinances and held the first reading of a massive amendment to clean up a lot of issues with the present zoning ordinance.

At just over $1 million, Chris Clark Grading & Paving was the low bidder on this year’s street paving in the city. Piedmont Paving offered a bid at more than $1.3 million.

Streets to be paved this year include all or portions of Cleveland Road, Columbus Road, Hopewell Road, 15th Avenue East, 29th Boulevard, 31st Street 33rd Street, 48th Street and 65th Street East.

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Startley General Contractors of Blountsville, Alabama was the low bidder for water improvements in the industrial park. Its offer of $946,090.50 to do the work is around $325,000 lower than what was estimated. Mayor Leonard Riley said that’s what happens when there’s lots of competition to land a bid.

“We had eight contractors to show up for this,” he said. “This was the first time we’ve had that many for one project.”

The tax abatement with John Soules Foods is for 10 years. It covers state and local non-educational property taxes.

The Tyler, Texas-based company will be investing $136 million in a former WestPoint Stevens distribution center off Towel Avenue in Valley.

Kimberly Carter of the Chambers County Development Authority told the council that John Soules Foods was to the point of starting construction at the site.

“When fully operational, they will have five production lines and will be employing 450 people. This will be their largest production facility, and the pay will average $15 an hour. The five lines of production will take place over phases.”

“Are they ready to start work on the building?” Riley asked Carter.

“They are ready,” she responded.

“I am looking forward to them being here,” the mayor said. “I talked with their CEO, Tom Ellis, who had told me that they wanted to be here tonight but had to cancel due to the bad weather. I welcome John Soules Foods to our community. $163 million is a lot of money for someone to invest in your community.”

The meeting opened with a public hearing to discuss the rezoning of some property off Combs Road and 20th Avenue. Also discussed was a zoning amendment to cover a host of topics.

Planning and Development Director Travis Carter told the council that the property off Combs Road would be zoned R-3, or medium density residential. Two sections of property are involved, one of 38 acres and another of 132 acres. The land is being rezoned to allow development of a housing subdivision. Carter said the property on 20th Avenue will allow the owner of a barber shop to build a parking lot on a site he owns next door where a house was recently torn down.

These two requests were approved in the regular session. The rules were suspended to approve them on one reading.

A first reading was held on the third zoning issue. It’s over 100 pages in length and covers many needed changes. The council can act on it following a second reading at the March 9 meeting.

As an example of a change that’s needed, Carter cited a land disturbance permit. He said there had been instances dirt had been removed along Highway 29.

“You will have to have a permit to do this now,” he said. “This will clarify building permits, and you will have to have a permit to work past 5 p.m.”

The new ordinance would clarify accessory structures and would add carports as accessory structures. The new language would say what types were allowed. One couldn’t, for example, put up a tarp and say that was a carport.

The new language would not allow airplanes and tractor trailers being stored in residential areas.

The council approved a four-item consent agenda. These items included installing a street light on Richardson Street, the authorization of public nuisances and a new Valley Senior Center grievance policy.

Formerly, grievances at the Senior Center were handled by a committee. The new policy would allow Senior Center Director Melissa Pitchford to be the first to handle it and for it to go on to Recreation Director Laurie Blount if not satisfied at the first step.

Public Works Director Patrick Bolt said that paving had been completed on Valley Industrial Boulevard and that 35 mph speed limit signs would soon be going up. Bolt added that asphalt plants had been running slow due to the recent rainy weather.

“It will cost us more because of the wet conditions,” he said. “We need to dry out from all of this. 53rd Street is closed due to a collapsed pipe. We hope to have it fixed tomorrow, if not then by the end of the week. “

Parks and Recreation Director Blount said that Valley will have three basketball teams going to the district tournament in Tuskegee, where 42 teams will be taking part.

She said the new racquetball courts at the Community Center had been finished and look really good.

“The players aren’t slipping anymore,” she said. “The Bobby Crowder Room will be closed next Friday and Saturday as we re-do the floors. We will be putting in some high-quality laminate.”

Travis Carter asked city residents to be looking for Census cards in the mail.

“It will mean $1,600 for every person counted,” he said. “We need as good a count as we have ever had. You can fill it out online or call it in. It you haven’t responded by May someone will come to see you. We will be putting up signs and distributing flyers on this.”

Commissioner Sam Bradford told the council that Alabamians need to stand up and be counted like never before this year.

“The talk now is that we could lose two seats in the U.S. Congress and $13 billion in federal grants,” he said. “We don’t need for that to happen. Community Development Block Grants, storm relief and free lunch programs are all tied to Census data.”

Bradford said that Census workers won’t be entering private homes. They can talk with you while standing on your porch and get all the information they need.

“It only takes five or six minutes to fill out the form,” Bradford said. “Be sure everyone in the household is included. One of the largest groups not counted are children under five years of age. It’s estimated that we missed out on counting at least 15,000 of them in Alabama in 2010. We don’t need to miss out on anyone this year. We cannot afford to lose out on $13 billion. We would have to make that up on the state and local level or cut services.”