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City to spend portion of stimulus funds on sidetrack

By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer

Atmore City Council members approved during their Monday, May 9, meeting three resolutions related to a railroad sidetrack that will serve the new Coastal Growers peanut shelling plant, including an agreement to use nearly $1 million of the city’s federal stimulus money to cover the agricultural co-op’s shortfall in funding the rail siding itself.
The first resolution was to authorize the private sidetrack agreement between the city, Coastal Growers and CSX Transportation.
Under the second resolution, the city agreed to cover “about $940,000” of the sidetrack’s cost, more than half the $1.69 million the city received in March 2021 under the American Rescue Plan Act. Mayor Jim Staff said part of the Coastal Growers funding problem cropped up when CSX “upped the price by $500,000.”
The third resolution spelled out how the track was to be used and protects the city “from and against all claims or actions required if (the city) has to repay or refund any of the (municipal) funds used to pay for the track.”
City Attorney Larry Wettermark and Coastal Growers attorney Paul Turner had both given the agreements the green light prior to the meeting. In a summary of the agreement, Turner noted that if any of the stimulus money “was clawed back for any reason, we (Coastal Growers) would agree to repay.”
Mayor Staff said after the meeting that, “if we’re ever going to have a transfer yard, we have to have a switch (rail siding), so we agreed to cover what Coastal Growers couldn’t. We should be able to use that money for anything that’s going to create jobs and tax revenue.”
Wettermark agreed, He said in a letter to Turner and Coastal Growers President and CEO Dirk Lindsey that “the city feels that the use of the federal funds to pay what is Coastal’s obligation under the CSX agreement, is justified.”
In other business, the council voted unanimously to:
*Enter into separate agreements with Alabama Department of Transportation for removal and disposal of debris along state highways and “municipal connecting lanes.” No details were provided of either agreement, except the mayor’s explanation that “this is for when we have a hurricane.”
*Turned down a request from Cleveland Biggs to replace a Bill Salter Advertising sign that was damaged in 2020 by Hurricane Sally. Staff, holding up a copy of the city ordinance, told Biggs (who has brought the issue before the council three times previously), told Biggs the matter had been considered by the city’s board of zoning adjustment and had been rejected. “It’s been done and it’s over,” Staff said.
*Approved a request from Cedo Coon, who did not attend the meeting, for use of Heritage Park for a tent revival this Friday and Saturday, May 13-14. No times were provided for the nightly services.