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Tramell talks about West Point’s 2020

WEST POINT — West Point Mayor Steve Tramell was the guest speaker at Thursday’s noon hour meeting of the West Point Rotary Club, held at the Jane Farrar Event Center in downtown Lanett. He talked about a “best of times/worst of times” year for the city.

COVID-19 has made for a tough year for everyone. Even so, there was much in the way of good news in West Point.

The recent announcement that Hyundai Transys would be investing $240 million in West Point is fantastic for the west Georgia-east Alabama region, not just West Point. This means that a 640,000-square-foot building will be going up off Kia Parkway and that close to 700 new jobs will be created.

“That would be great news for a city 10 times our size,” Tramell said. “It would be great news for a city 50 times our size.”

West Point has more going for it than almost any city anywhere with a population of around 3,500 people.

Where I-85 and Kia Parkway parallel, there are eight lanes of traffic moving along. Not many towns of 3,500 people have that.

There was much hope and anticipation for future growth when the Kia announcement was made in 2006. Tramell said KMMG coming here was definitely a boon for the local area, but the housing crisis of 2008-09 couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“The housing slump definitely cost us an influx of people coming here to live,” Tramell said. “Kia and its suppliers brought in an estimated 10,000 new jobs, but every one of them had been filled by the time housing came back.”

A problem now is that builders want to build new homes in places that fetch higher prices. A new house built in West Point may go for $180,000. That new home in Newnan could sell for twice that amount, simply because it’s closer to Atlanta.

Housing growth in the local area has been slow, but there are signs that it might be taking off. Even before the Hyundai-Transys announcement, an announcement was made that 22 new homes would be going up off Georgia 103 in West Point.

Tramell said that plans for The Villages at West Point near the Coca-Cola plant is exceptionally good news. It will be a 79-unit apartment complex. Some of the residents will be located there through the West Point Housing Authority, and many others will likely work for Kia and its suppliers.

“I think it will be good that you won’t be able to see the difference from where the public housing residents live and where the Kia workers do,” Tramell said.

Tramell added that the city council had taken a positive step forward in decriminalizing marijuana. It’s still not legal, but it won’t condemn the first-time offender for life. The first offense is a $100 fine, a second offense a $200 fine and so on.

“It’s not good to saddle teens for life,” he said.

Tramell is elated with the transformation he has seen in West Point.

“Anyone who has known West Point for some time can see it,” he said. “We have made some tremendous gains, and more progress is on the way.”

More changes will be seen in the coming years on East 10th Street. Some land has been cleared for future development. It’s likely a senior housing development will be on one of the pads.

New signal lighting and signage will be going up at the intersection of East 10th and MLK Drive. There will also be the introduction of something new for the U.S. but very old for Europeans — the roundabout. One will be going up at the junction of 103 and 18. Others could be going up off I-85 at Exit 2. Bids will be going out for the first one in February and construction will likely be taking place in 2021.

In addition to the Hyundai Transys announcement, there was also some good news from a plant in the Harris County Business Park that’s planning an expansion. Jin Tech intends to have a $70 million investment in this project.

Tramell thanked members of the council for supporting a recent bond issue that will save the city an estimated $3 million over the next 20 years. He’s also glad the council re-appointed Kevin Patrick to a new term on the West Point Development Authority.