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County votes 3-2 to fund 20th St. project

Grady County Joint Development Authority members are applauding the Grady County Commission’s recent action to proceed with the full depth reclamation of 20th Street S.E.
County commissioners met last week and reversed course on the project, voting 3-2 to invest an additional $65,000 in Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) funds from the state on the project.
Previously, the board had voted 3-1 to delay the project, but last Wednesday morning Vice Chairman Elwyn Childs, who had returned from an out-of-town trip and was present, joined Commissioners LaFaye Copeland and TD David in appropriating the additional money for the project. Chairman Charles Norton and Commissioner Ray Prince maintain their stance that the project should be delayed due to other road improvement needs.
JDA Chairman Charles M. Stafford said Tuesday that improvements to 20th Street S.E. could mean the difference in future expansions of Woodhaven Industries here.
“They are looking to add 100 new jobs, but they could hold off until they see what will be done to 20th Street,” Chairman Stafford said.
According to a letter to JDA Executive Director Chadd Mathis from Woodhaven Vice President Michael Jarnagin, the company has requested the condition of the street be addressed for several years.
The letter also notes that as many as 50 tractor trailers come to and from the local plant daily.
Officials also point out that when the Woodhaven operation was established in the late 1990s, the plant was assigned a 20th Street S.E. address so traffic reliant on GPS could use 20th Street, not Alton Hall Road, to access the plant.
Chairman Stafford also noted that Woodhaven currently employs 400 workers and is looking to hire an additional 100.
“We’ve got to take care of the industry we have now. Yes, we would all like to have new industry, but we have to take care of those here. After all, they are the best people to sell Grady County,” Stafford said.
In addition to a growing number of jobs, Woodhaven is also visited by business partners and customers from across the country and around the world, Jarnagin and Stafford said.
“We try to make a good impression on visitors to our community. What kind of impression does 20th Street make to people coming to Woodhaven? It’s about as bad as it gets,” Stafford said.
The JDA chairman thanked Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton and Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar for their work on the project. “Carlos, you’ve faced an up hill battle with the commissioners on this, and we appreciate everything you have done,” Stafford said.
Addleton also gave praise to Tobar, “If you (Tobar) hadn’t driven this through with the DOT (Department of Transportation) it wouldn’t still be alive.”
Working with Representative Darlene Taylor and DOT officials, Tobar is hopeful the state is going to invest approximately $90,000 in the 20th Street project. Combined with $150,000 from the county, $200,000 from the city and $50,000 from the JDA there will be enough money to cover the estimated $490,000 price tag.
Tobar said he wants to combine the 20th Street project with a similar project for the full depth reclamation of a section of Old 179 North within the corporate limits of the city of Whigham to achieve lower construction pricing for the two projects.
As soon as the state notifies Tobar of its level of participation in the project, the county administrator says the project is ready to be put out to bid.

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