County Commission approves Honda abatement
by Jim Smothers
Feb 13, 2014 | 1490 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Talladega County commissioners approved a tax abatement on a $71.8 million Honda expansion project and heard from Alabama Power Company representatives about plans to run a natural gas pipeline through part of the county during Monday night's meeting. County administrator Wayne Hall announced his plans to retire when his contract with the county expires at the end of the fiscal year. They also heard Commissioner John Luker say he is not running for re-election because of the desire to spend more time with his family.

Hall said he is making the announcement now to help the commission achieve an orderly transisition to place someone else in the position. Hall has served as county administrator for six and a half years, following 28 years with Kimberly Clark and its successors in accounting and personnel, and 10 years in accounting and personnel positions with the state.

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama representative Ray Perez told commissioners plans for the company's expansion are related to the production of drivetrain components. Perez said it would improve effeciency and decrease emissions in V-6 engines, and would create 50 new jobs at the plant.

In a written statement, corporate affairs and communication manager Ted Pratt said the components are part of Honda's "Earth Dreams Technology" that will enhance fuel economy and performance. HMA employs more than 4,000 with an investment in Alabama of more than $2 billion and annual production capacity exceeding 340,000 vehicles and engines. With this project and its additional employment, HMA will have invested more than $508 million and added more than 450 associates to operations in Lincoln since March 2011. Production at the plant began in November 2001.

The action gives HMA an abatement from liability for state and local non-educational real property and personal property ad valorem taxes with respect to the project for 10 years, as well as state and local non-educational sales, use excise and other taxes on property and services. HMA plans to spend almost $37 million on a new building and almost $35 million on new manufacturing machinery for the project.

Alabama Power Company representatives said a natural gas pipeline would run parallel to U.S. 231 for about 15 miles from near Rockford to Sylacauga and then run parallel to existing power lines another 15 miles to the Coosa River. Directional drills will carry the pipeline underneath the river to the Ernest C. Gaston Electric Generating Plant in Wilsonville.

Project manager Chris Curow said work would begin this month, with plans to convert four boiler units at the plant online with natural gas in 2016. He said permits and easements have been obtained, and pipe from APIPCO in Birmingham will be delivered beginning next week.

The change is being made to meet stricter EPA regulations. Four 270 megawatt units will be converted to run on natural gas, but will still be capable of operating on coal if necessary. A fifth unit at the plant, capable of producing 895 megawatts, will still operate on coal. That unit is to be fitted with a baghouse to remove emissions in addition to other environmental controls already in place. Alabama Power owns or operates 81 electric generating units with total capacity of more than 13 million kilowatts. These generating units are located at 24 facilities.

Commissioners also approved a new agreement with the Alabama Department of Corrections for housing state inmates. The current agreement is expiring. Under the agreement, up to 53 male state inmates, in reasonably good health, may be housed in the metro jail, for which the county will be paid $15.25 per day per inmate, plus payment of $15 per physician encounter and $10 per nurse encounter per day. The agreement is subject to a six-month review.

The commissioners also passed a resolution opposing a bill currently in the state legislature that would give landowners the right to go to court to let a jury decide whether to close, or vacate, a county road. HB148 has already passed the House of Representatives. County attorney Barry Vaughn sat that, currently, if the commission decides a road should remain a public road, it remains a public road. The proposed change would allow a property owner to go to court to ask a jury to close a road against the wishes of the county commission.

Commissioners also passed resolutions intended to protect county roads from damage from logging operations. Loggers will be required to provide at least four days notice so that roads can be inspected before and after operations to determine whether roads were damaged. Concerns were expressed about mud and water covering roads during operations, and road department operations engineer Shawn McCombs said there had been at least one occasion when loggers filled a ditch with dirt to be able to cross it, and left the dirt in the ditch when they left.

In other actions, the Commission:

O Approved Jimmy Roberson's appointment of Don Maxwell to the Fayetteville Water Board.

O Heard EMA director Deborah Gaither's complaint about her department's loss of a radio console that she said slows down the ability of her employees to manage information during emergency situations. She asked the commission for a new console, which would cost between $40,000 and $160,000.

O Approved Gaither's requests for two contracts with Lee Helms Associates. One is a $20,685 consulting contract for revising the county's hazard mitigation plan. The other is for conducting a tabletop training exercise including planning meetings, conducting, evaluating and critiquing the exercise, completing an after-action report and data entry.

O Approved an agreement between the Alabama Department of Transportation and the county for resurfacing Speedway Boulevard from I-20 to Alabama 77 under the ATRIP program. The work is to be done after the spring race at Talladega Superspeedway.

O Approved a request for 2014 ad valorem tax levies.

O Approved the state ABC Board's schedule of county licensing fees for 2014-15.

O Approved conference requests for Bryan Allen and Cindy Pennington to attend the mid-winter Conference of the Alabama Association of Assessing Officials next month in Florence.

O Approved termination of a corrections officer and a road department employee; approved promotions of a road department employee and a revenue department employee; approved two 3 percent raises in conjunction with an across the board raise previously approved.