Johnson: ‘A red-letter day’

Published 11:51 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday was a great day for property owners and residents with an interest in River Falls Street in Andalusia, as the city council agreed to proceed with seeking the funding needed to completely refurb the street and authorized Mayor Earl Johnson to borrow $2 million from a local bank to purchase the old Alatex property.

On Monday, Speaker of the House Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia) and Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba) announced that the Alabama Department of Transportation had agreed to fund $1.5 million of the proposed $4 million project to refurb River Falls.

The project includes improving water and sewerage lines, storm water drainage, the road base, resurfacing, curbs and gutters, landscaping and lighting. Johnson described the project as “the missing piece” needed for Andalusia’s future growth.

Johnson told the council that the city and its industrial development board are in a position to purchase the old Alatex property on River Falls Street, “at one time, the industrial strength of our city.”

Johnson said Wright Manufacturing has entered a contract with current property owner John Rawls to purchase 38 acres at the Alatex site and an additional 6.5 acres that fronts on the bypass, as well as the buildings on the property, for $1.375 million.

“They (the Wrights) have the rights to assign the contract to the Industrial Development Board,” Johnson said. “I’m asking you to authorize me and the city clerk to sign the necessary documents at closing, set for 2 p.m. (Wednesday).”

However, he said, there is a good chance the closing will be delayed by a property title issue.

The mayor said CCB Community Bank has agreed to finance $2 million for two years at 4 percent fixed interest.

“Hopefully, we’ll roll this into the bond issue,” Johnson said.

“We’ve already met with an investment banker from Merchant Capital to talk about this scenario,” Johnson said. “He said it’s not worth it to do a $2 or $2.5 million bond issue because of the costs associated with it.

“He encouraged us to look at our debt, where we are with the city and other capital improvement projects we might have,” Johnson said. “Johnson Park, Church Street School, and a $500,000 short-term note the previous administration did to fund some capital projects would all be rolled in to the bond issue.”

He said the city will look at a $5 million to $6 million bond issue, which will eventually include the financing of the Alatex property.

“This is a red-letter day,” Johnson said after the meeting. “Less than a year after we took office, we are moving forward on the projects we set as our priorities.”