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Monday August 31st, 2015 5:50PM

Banks County Commission hesitates, approves DOT funding contract

By Rob Moore Reporter
HOMER - The Banks County Commission seemingly has cleared the way for development of two industrial parcels in the county.

At a called meeting Wednesday afternoon, the commission voted to sign a funding contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation to open up more than 100 acres of property near Homer and at Banks Crossing

But that vote didn't come without some questions from members of the county commission.

"If the county signs a contract with DOT for the grant, does the county have to come up with an additional contract with the development authority that they are going to pay for this?" Commissioner Danny Maxwell asked.

Commissioner Charles Turk also weighed in with concerns.

"That's my point I'm getting to is it's ok - I can vote for this contract a long as there's a contract that the industrial development authority is going to be responsible for paying for it, because what I don't want to do is sign this contract and us get stuck for the money and then the bank say they're not going to let you have the money," Turk said. "I know we need to get it done ASAP, but I was hoping the financial part would already be pretty well taken care of."

Turk then put Banks County Developer Brad Day on the spot.

"Are you going to go on public record and say that the industrial development authority is going to pay the county back for this?" Turk asked.

Day hesitated for a moment, reiterating that he asked for the commission to approve the chairman signing the contract with the understanding that the development authority would provide the required local matching funds.

"I don't have the authority to speak for the development authority, per se," Day said.

Maxwell said since the development authority already has voted to provide the match, that action should be reflected in the authority minutes.

"Would that be enough if it's in their minutes?" Maxwell asked.

Turk was hesitant.

"It may be that they agree to it, but if they can't get a bank to finance it then we're stuck with it," Turk said. "What I want to hear from them is that we have the finances right here in hand if you'll sign this contract then we'll pay for it."

Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper said he would not sign the contract if the matching money from the development authority is not available.

With that, Turk made a motion to allow the chairman to sign the contract once funding is available. Commissioner David Duckett seconded that motion, with all voting in favor.

Following the meeting, Day explained more about the grants.

"We've received grants in the amount of almost $500,000," Day said. "This is through the Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant through the Department of Transportation. These two projects that were let by the development authority a couple of weeks ago are projects that will open up some of the development authority property for development."

One of the projects is along U.S. Highway 441 (Georgia 15) in the Homer area, while the other is located on the north end of Banks Crossing.

"The first is the Hudson River Business Park off of Windmill Farm Road, and that will open up that nice, flat lot on 441," Day said. "The other public road project is creating the intersection at Faulkner Road, and a new entrance to the development authority's 109 acres. There, we're hoping to have retail development on the front and some commercial and industrial development on the back side."

Windmill Farm Road is where the Banks County Law Enforcement Center is located and is across from Thompson Street, home to many county facilities.

"Locally, we have to provide 30 percent of the funding for that - and the development authority is providing that," Day said. "Basically, that will be funded off the sale of that property, because all that property is going to go back on the tax digest and hopefully create jobs and an increased tax base so that we can pay lower taxes and get better jobs here in Banks County."
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