Valley approves ten-year tax abatement for John Soules Foods

Published 7:19 am Wednesday, August 24, 2022

VALLEY — The Valley City Council on Monday approved a ten-year tax abatement for John Soules Foods, which is planning an $81 million investment in its new plant off Towel Avenue. The expansion will add three more production lines and increase employment from the present number of 372 to more than 500. The abatement is allowed by the Tax Reform Act of 1992 and exempts all state and local noneducational property taxes and special taxes levied for road and bridge improvements.

Ansley Emfinger of the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) staff told the council that the planned expansion will send John Soules Foods’ investments in the local community past the $300 million mark.

“They spent over $200 million to get the first two lines running,” said Mayor Leonard Riley. “They have been really good to our community.”

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The action was approved in a unanimous vote.

The Monday meeting was the first regular session held inside the recently refurbished council chamber. It looks brand new with new flooring, seating, painting and a much improved sound system.

The meeting began with a public hearing to receive input on some proposed changes in the city’s seven-member council districts. This is done every 10 years to reflect population changes that were shown in the most recent Census. The goal was to have each district as equal as realistically possible in terms of population. Each district is somewhere between 1,450 people to 1,550. With the new district lines, District One (represented by Jim Clark) will have 1,549 residents, District Two (Jim Jones) 1,542, District Three (Randall Maddux) 1,524, District Four (Marquetta Madden) 1,447, District Five (Kendall Andrews) 1,447, District Six (Henry Cooper), 1,550 and District Seven (Jimmy Gilson) 1,470.

A large map of the proposed new districts is available at city hall for anyone who wants to see it. Plans are to have it on the city’s website for the next two weeks. This will provide a way for residents to check if they have been placed in a new district. Most people who haven’t moved in the last 10 years will be in the same district but others may have been moved into a new district.

The council held a first reading of a proposed ordinance to establish the new districts. It can be approved following a second reading at the next council meeting on Monday, evening, September 12th.

In other business on Monday, the council approved a three percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for part-time and full-time city employees. It goes into effect with the payroll checks on December 8th.

Bids were approved for three upcoming paving projects in the city. Chris Clark Paving & Grading was the low bidder for them at $426,060. Included is the entrance from Fob James Drive to Burney Road, the Burney Road cul-de-sac (which is under construction) and a new shortcut road from the end of Valley Industrial Drive to Combs Road, which leads to the Camellia Crossing subdivision, also under construction.

The council approved upon first readings ordinances to include a maximum adjustment fee of $14 for the issuance of business licenses and the annual renewal of a rental agreement between the city and the Fifth Judicial Circuit Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force to lease approximately 3,000 square feet in the Public Works building off Fairfax Bypass.

The council unanimously approved a six-item consent agenda which included a five-year paving plan for city streets, a revision of the Title VI city plan and the approval of the consumption of alcohol for three upcoming weddings and a class reunion to be held on city-owned property such as the Community Center or Lakeview Cabin.

Mayor Riley said a second public hearing would be held at the Sept. 12 meeting to allow residents affected by a proposed plan to close a little used street off Cleveland Road. Some extensive damage was caused there by a severe rainstorm on July 9th. It would cost the city an estimated $200,000 to keep the road open but $30,000 to cut a ditch there, closing the road, and filling the ditch with rip rap.

The road could be permanently closed following that second hearing.

Police Chief Mike Reynolds informed the council that Valley Police Department had received a third vehicle that had been ordered 10 months ago. Reynolds said some new flooring had gone in at the police department. “It makes the offie look a good bit bigger than it did before,” he said.

Valley Parks and Recreation Director Laurie Blount was pleased to announce an increase in registrations for fall sports. “We are getting closer to our pre-Covid numbers,” she said. “We had 255 youngsters sign up for one of our fall activities. We had 185 last year.”

Blount said that the Valley Farmers Market will continue to be held on Friday afternoons going into September. “As long as we have farmers with produce to sell we will be open from 3 to 6 p.m. on Fridays at the Farmers Market Pavilion,” she said.

Council Member Jim Clark thanked the Public Works Department on having done good work in cleaning up around the W.O. Kent Recreation Center and Bob Harding-Shawmut Elementary School in preparation for this past Saturday’s annual Shawmut School Reunion.

It was the 24th such reunion and the first one since 2019. The ones for 2020 and 2021 were canceled.