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West Point approves decriminalization of marijuana ordinance, Hyundai TRANSYS MOU

With Mayor Steve Trammel back on the gavel, the West Point City Council met via teleconference on Monday to vote on several pivotal items.

The council voted unanimously to approve the decriminalization of marijuana ordinance. The ordinance makes the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a progressive fine as opposed to a criminal offense that will show up on an individual’s criminal record. The civil penalty would be a progressive scale based on the number of infractions. For the first offense, the fine will not exceed $100, on the second offense the fine should not exceed $200 and for the third and any subsequent offense, the fine should not exceed $350.

The council also voted unanimously to approve the memorandum of understanding with Hyundai TRANSYS. In the MOU, the city agreed to a tax abatement that likely helped secure the $240 million expansion project that is expected to bring 678 jobs to the West Point area.

For the first three years, Hyundai TRANSYS will realize a 100 percent abatement. In the fourth year, there will be a 75 percent abatement, and the fifth through 20th year will have a 50 percent abatement.

WPDA Bond Counsel Rob McKenna said in the county’s pilot program that as long as the plant is under construction the company can go 100 percent abated.

“One of the reasons there is a 100 percent abatement for the first three years is the plant will be under construction during that period,” McKenna said.

In a brief discussion, Councilwoman DeeDee Williams — who abstained from voting due to her affiliation with a Hyundai TRANSYS sister company — said she is elated for the opportunity to have the new jobs in the West Point community. However, she wants to make sure the city is prepared.

“We hope to be ready for this great economic development opportunity,” Williams said. “When Kia and the other suppliers’ first and second-tier suppliers came, we were not ready,” Williams added.

Williams went on to say that there were many factors that prevented the city of West Point from capitalizing on the new jobs that came to the area.

“Our census, our rooftops, our regional development, residential development, our school system — there were a lot of things that were not conducive to us attracting new residents,” Williams said.

Williams did offer a ray of hope to her statement by saying there is still plenty of time for the city to address the issues and be more prepared.

“With two years, maybe a little longer before this facility will be completed, we have time to get ready to seize this opportunity, I certainly hope that we as a city and the development authority will take every opportunity to seize the opportunity to bring these people to our city,” Williams said.

Williams also said the city needed to offer new incentives to entice people to move to West Point.

Williams also praised the direction of the Troup County School System.

“We have made progress as far as the educational system. With the new superintendent, things are going in the right direction,” she said. “We’re not where we need to be as far as education in West Point, but we are moving in the right direction. We need to use the next two years or three to get ready for this.”

The council also approved the reappointment of Kevin Patrick to the West Point Development Authority Board for another five-year term and the 2021 budget.

The council is not scheduled to meet again in 2020.