Jonathan Tullos

Wiregrass Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jonathan Tullos

Plans to build a new hotel on the south side of Enterprise were put on hold as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated in 2020 but the project received a kick-start Jan. 19 when the Enterprise City Council approved some $400,000 in economic development incentives.

At the Enterprise City Council meeting Jan. 19 the council approved the economic development incentives for New Enterprise LLC to build a hotel on the south side of the Boll Weevil Circle, known as Camellia Commons.

The developer will commit to build a Marriot or Hilton brand hotel with a minimum of 80 rooms, Wiregrass Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jonathan Tullos told those attending the council meeting. The project must break ground within 18 months of the council approving the incentive, which will be paid to the developer after the property opens and is in operation for 90 consecutive days.

“If the developer fails to maintain the Marriott or Hilton flag at this property for a period of three years, the developer would be required to pay back the incentive at a prorated rate,” Tullos added. “We were approached about a year and a half ago with an economic development opportunity which was delayed because of COVID but the market has rebounded and come back.”

Tullos gave the council a spreadsheet of associated project costs and potential tax revenues that the project would generate for the city of Enterprise. “Based on these estimates, the payback period of the incentive to the city of Enterprise would be between 10 and 23 months,” he said. “In two years we will recoup all of our money but before they even open we will have recouped about half of it.”

Tullos said that 70 percent of the tax dollars that support the city’s general fund are from sales tax. “With that said, we have a limited corridor where retailers and hoteliers want to be—particularly along Highway 167 North towards Troy and Highway 84 towards Dothan,” he explained. “Those areas have the highest traffic count in the city and it is growing.”

“This council has a stated goal of trying to drive development around on the south side of town,” said Enterprise City Council President Turner Townsend, noting that the previous council had discussed the need for economic development incentives in that location and that the new council members had been brought up to speed on the project.

“In order to generate more retail in the city, you have to have more traffic, more ‘rooftops’ in other parts of the city,” Tullos said. “Those are the areas that make the most sense to give incentives for to encourage economic growth.”

Tullos said that the project will be positive for the city citing the fact that many travelers subscribe to the loyalty programs offered by the Marriot and Hilton Hotels. “This will go a long way when we have Parks and Recreation Department events.”

In other business, Townsend said that 14 candidates applied for the position of Enterprise Police Chief, vacated upon the retirement of longtime Police Chief T.D. Jones. He asked the council members to each individually narrow the list down to their top five preferences. “Then we’ll narrow it down to three candidates at which point, it will be a public job interview.”

City of Enterprise Human Resources Director Christina Meissner said that 28 applications had been received for the position of city administrator with 19 meeting the minimum qualifications. The mayor selects a person for the city administrator position and the council’s responsibility is to accept or reject that recommendation. “So the ball is in your court, Mayor,” Townsend said.

In unrelated business the council approved a one-time salary/pay adjustment for some of the department heads, “based on additional duties that said department heads have assumed during their tenure as either interim department heads and/or for additional duties involving programs and work implemented,” according to the resolution.

“We’ve had a number of interim department heads for some time now and there’s a different story to tell on all of them as far as how their pay was handled or not handled,” Townsend said, adding that the resolution was a recommendation from the mayor.

Under the resolution the salary of the interim director of engineering services’ interim pay is assigned at the rate of $60,000, subject to applicable payroll withholdings. She is granted a one-time payment of $4,351 which represents payment from the date she assumed the interim status. That salary will remain in effect until a new director is selected at which time she will revert to the previous pay rate as assistant director.

The interim city clerk’s interim salary is assigned at the rate of $75,000, subject to applicable payroll withholding. She is granted a one-time payment of $9,881.20. That salary will remain in effect until a new director is appointed at which time she will revert to the previous pay rate as assistant city clerk.

The interim police chief’s interim salary is assigned at $80,000, subject to applicable payroll withholdings. He is granted a one-time payment of $2,807.77 representing payment from the date he assumed the interim status. That salary will remain in effect until a new police chief is appointed at which time he will revert to the previous pay rate of police captain.

Under the resolution approved, the tourism director is granted a $5,000 increase bringing her salary to $55,000 annually and the Main Street director is granted a $2,500 increase bringing her salary to $38,400 annually.

The human resources director is granted a $2,500 increase in salary bringing her annual salary to $66,163.

The interim public works director is granted a one-time payment of $1,200, subject to applicable payroll withholding.

“When we put someone in an interim status from now on we need to decide an interim salary and that way we don’t have to do make up additions like this and it will be more fair to everybody involved,” Townsend said. “So let’s try to learn from our mistake.”

In other business the council approved, on contingency, the request by Stephan Berlet of Church With U to hold the 2021 Egg Drop Saturday, April 3, from 7 a.m. until noon at Bates Memorial Stadium. The approval was given, pending no change in statewide COVID-19 safety precaution mandates.

The next meeting of the Enterprise City Council is Feb. 2 in the council chambers at Enterprise City Hall. A work session begins at 5 p.m. and a voting meeting begins at 6 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public.

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