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Valley council updated on ongoing local projects

VALLEY — There’s a great deal of interest right now in seeking a location in Valley Industrial Park.

“We are in the running every day for some kind of project,” Valley Mayor Leonard Riley told council members at a Thursday evening work session.

Riley updated council members on what needs to be done to get new businesses and industries to locate in the park. Grants have been approved, and the East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire Protection District has been busy seeing that the work is getting done. A large above-ground water tank has been built and the park is encircled with new, large water lines.

The former Burney property, located across Fob James Drive from Zaxby’s, is being looked at for commercial development. It’s also possible to have some apartments on the site. A road has been cut across the land and a new sewer line will be located there. Lots in the area have been priced at $100,000 an acre.

“We will reduce that if someone coming there will have good-paying jobs,” Riley said.

A current problem is that pipe is in great demand right now and the prices are high. One thing the city has plenty of is dirt and rock. That’s needed in any kind of construction.

There’s also a big need right now to run a new sewer line in the Combs Road area, which is holding up the start of construction of Camelia Crossing, the new housing development by Holland Homes of Auburn.

“I hope we can get what we need in six weeks,” Riley said. “This is for you to think about and study.”

In the conference room at city hall, Riley showed members of the council drone views of the Burney site, the Combs Road area, John Soules Foods, the Fairfax Mill site, Riverdale Mill, Fairview Cemetery and Fairfax Cemetery. He thanked Chief Weldon for the use of one of VPDs three drones to get the aerial footage.

A recent expansion at the Fairview Cemetery has added new roads through the cemetery. There’s room there now for 2,000 more graves. All the roads in the cemetery have been paved, and the Fairfax expansion adds room for 400 more graves.

Trees near the Fairfax Cemetery have been cut, and Frank Ponder of Ponder’s Nursery will be doing some landscaping work at both locations.

“It looks really good at Fairview,” said Planning and Development Director Travis Carter. “We will see how the new grass grows there this summer and fall.”

The aerial view of John Soules Foods showed some huge HVAC units on top of the building. Some special support structures had to be built to secure them.

There are three new buildings just outside the main plant, a 266,000-square-foot building that once served as a towel distribution center for WestPoint Stevens. The largest of the three new buildings is a pre-treatment plant. It has been finished and is ready for production to start. With a pointer, Riley showed council members where two new entrances will be added to go with the present entrance to the plant. New loading docks are being built outside the building. “There’s visible progress being made every week,” Riley said. “There are some highly-skilled people on the site. It’s an art to weld stainless steel, and they have had some guys there doing that.”

Approximately 100 workers are on the site now getting the plant ready to open.

“They are spending their money here and staying at the Quality Inn,” he said.

Riley said the contractor for the lift station, Crawford, had done a really good job with a difficult task. They had to dig a hole approximately 40 feet deep near the junction of Towel Avenue and Fairfax Bypass.

Riley said that cleanup work had resumed at Riverdale Mill. There’s a local connection to the work that’s going on. “The trackhoe operator is from River View, and he’s good,” Riley said.

Some concrete flooring has been broken up with the debris being left in a hole that needed to be filled.

“I don’t want them leaving it looking like some of the other mill sites have looked,” said Council Member Kendall Andrews, who represents the River View area. “The cleanup of the mill site is a big thing needed to get River View going. I would like to see a timeframe on how long it will take to finish cleaning up the site.”

Council members marveled at how good the Fairfax Mill site now looks from the air.

“The way it looks now is so much better than the way it was not that long ago,” Council Member Jones said. “I would like to see us get some grants to help us develop a park there. The main thing is that it’s no longer a safety hazard.”

Riley said that a lift station would have to be installed at the Combs Road site. It will have to be done in a manner to get around two big gullies that are in the area.

“Hopefully, we will have it bid out in a couple of weeks,” Riley said. “Holland Homes is waiting on us to get started.”

Weldon talked to the council about the renewal of a contract with the Chambers County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), Parties to the agreement include the cities of Valley, Lanett and LaFayette, the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, the East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire Protection District, the Huguley Water Authority and the county’s volunteer fire departments. Weldon said he would like to see what each party paid equalized with the calls it had going to the 9-1-1 center. At present, Valley is paying close to 32 percent of the bill with only about 25 percent of the calls. Lanett, LaFayette, the sheriff’s office, Huguley Fire & Water and the Volunteer Fire Association each have a higher percentage of calls than they do cash. East Alabama is slightly higher on cash than calls.

Weldon said the new contract would be written in a way to better equalize cash with calls.

“We want it to balance out,” he said. “The rates will be adjusted as we move along.”

Riley said the city would continue in its efforts to remove dilapidated houses, clean up lots and assess liens to get back the cost of doing this. The city is close to cutting down the total number of dead or dying trees it intended to have cut this year.