RWCC hear county progress update

Coffee County Commissioner Jim Thompson talks to those attending the recent Republican Women of Coffee County meeting.

The county is growing rapidly and one commissioner credits the cooperative spirit between county and municipal officials.

Several economic development strides in the county are the result of the county government working in partnership with city officials, Coffee County Commissioner Jim Thompson told those attending the Republican Women of Coffee County at the meeting June 19.

“Coffee County and the city of Enterprise are working together better, in my opinion, than they ever have,” Thompson said. “We’ve come a long way. I think we have bridged the gap there and we realize that we need to work together for all of Coffee County.”

For example, Thompson said, a recent partnership between the county and city will result in some 56 more parking spaces at the Coffee County Courthouse in Enterprise.

In January 2018, the county commission voted to buy property located at 107 and 109 South Edwards Street and 205 Grubbs Street, all adjacent to the Enterprise Courthouse.

The buildings were demolished and the parking lot will be paved, in part with proceeds from a trade with the city of Enterprise for 14 acres of land behind the Coffee County Health Department.

That paving project is expected to begin by July, Thompson said. “It will make a beautiful building look even nicer.”

The county is also teaming efforts with Enterprise to bring a proposed military veterans’ care facility to Coffee County, Thompson said. “We hope to get the RFPs—Request for Proposal—within 20 to 30 days and then we’ll sit down with the city of Enterprise and figure out how to come up with the best (proposal) package.”

Thompson also gave a progress update about the Coffee County Landfill. “The landfill, to be honest, is the reason we’re as successful in Coffee County as we are,” he said. “That is the only revenue generating item that we have that is not handed down from Montgomery in taxes of some kind.”

Thompson cited the $1.2 million revenue generated for the county about eight years ago when carbon credits were “sold to companies up north who needed to buy carbon credits to pollute legally,” as an example.

Thompson said the commission approved an agreement with Energy System Group LLC, to explore the feasibility of a landfill gas project that will utilize the gas generated by the trash at the county landfill.

If the project is deemed feasible, “we’re going to redo our entire gas collection system,” Thompson said about the procedure that involves drilling up to 50 feet into the landfill, capturing and cleaning gas collected and selling it.

Improvements for the county’s 529 miles of paved roads and 508 dirt roads were also discussed by Thompson. The recently enacted statewide gas tax is expected to generate $583,200 for Coffee County the first year, $777,600 the second year and $972,000 the third year.

It takes between $110,000 to $114,000 to pave one mile of road, Thompson said. “When it’s all said and done, at the end of five years, we hope to have 47 miles of road repaved in the county.”

Thompson said he is asked why Coffee County continues to prohibit alcohol sales in the county and that he had questioned it himself when he first became a commissioner.

There is a reason, Thompson said, explaining that then county attorney the late Joe Cassady Sr. had explained that the county receives money from the Tennessee Valley Authority in North Alabama for remaining a “dry” county.

The state received payments in lieu of taxes from TVA, Coffee County Administrator Rod Morgan explained after the RWCC meeting. “Pursuant to Section 40-28-2(c) of the Code of Alabama, 5 percent of these payments are distributed to the ‘dry’ counties and cities based on a formula. This code section was amended in 2010 and the 5 percent is being replaced by the distribution of liquor tax revenues.”

The payment Coffee County receives comes from money paid to the state from TVA, not directly from TVA.

When the agreement with TVA was initiated, prohibiting alcohol sales was not a huge issue but with the increasing number of chain retail stores operating in the county it is a question that is arising, Thompson said. “They would love to sell beer and wine,” Thompson said about the retail chain stores.

The TVA funds received from the state to the county annually had been about $400,000 for being a “dry”’ county, Thompson said. “This past year it was $305,000.

“But a guaranteed $305,000 a year with no headaches, it will probably be a while before Coffee County goes ‘wet,’” Thompson explained. “So that is why Coffee County is ‘dry.’”

“Everything costs more every year,” Thompson said. “It will continue to go up, so any way that we can try make money we are trying to find that and do it.”

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