Fort Deposit ID board working toward granting Chowel job date extensions

Published 8:06 pm Friday, November 20, 2015

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By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
While no vote was taken, following a meeting between the Fort Deposit Town Council and the Fort Deposit Industrial Development Board last Thursday night, ID board members agreed to work through issues that are holding them back at present from approving job target date extensions for Chowel.
According to information provided by attorney Arlene M. Richardson, the Fort Deposit ID board requested Chowel to provide a certified stamped copy of the construction documents used for the renovation of Cummings Signs building and disclosures from Chowel due Nov. 3o.
Present for the meeting from the Town Council were Mayor Fletcher Fountain and Council members Randy Adams and Darrell Heartsell. Absent were Council members David Gravely, Irish Simmons and Jacqulyn Jack-Jack Boone.
Present for the ID board were Barry Robinson, Freida Cross, Pam Barganier and Clinton Porterfield. Absent was Nathaniel Rivers.
Fountain serves as an ex officio member of the industrial development board.
Also present were Richardson, for the town and the ID board, Thomas Ellis, co-owner of Priester’s Pecans and Chairman of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission, and James Chambliss of the Mid-South Resource and Development Commission.
Fountain asked the board to grant Chowel’s extension. He said, “I would hate to think that the I.D. Board and the city council would be working opposite of each other.”
Richardson explained that the jobs target date for which Chowel is seeking an extension and which took more than a year to negotiate was 100 jobs by Dec. 31. She said once Chowel met that target, the county and Fort Deposit would pay Chowel $15,000 each and state would pay them $150,000.
She said, “What they are asking for is an amendment of the contract so they can move the jobs target date and have 100 employees by December 2016, which is a year extension.” She said a second target date was a year after that to have 200 jobs that triggered a second round of payments.
She said the state agreed to extend the contract and the county agreed to extend the jobs target date.
Richardson told those present for the meeting, “You have to keep in mind that we have a binding contract.” She said she spoke to an attorney for the state because the ID board did not want to hurt the project, but to be “firm.” She said, she was told it was not a problem.
She said Chowel provided a list of jobs and job descriptions, a lease agreement with Sejong, a machine list, and information on improvements to be made.
She said stamped and signed contracts were also requested for persons doing work who had to be licensed, certified contractors, some of which have been provided.
Robinson, an architect and chairman of the ID board, said he pushes for the betterment of the town. He said he requested Chowel to provide construction documents for all of the improvements. However, he said, in terms of improvements and the modifications that they’ve made, it seems to him they would have had more stamped drawings. “And,” he said, “they have not afforded us those types of drawings that showed us, educated us on really what they are going to do.”
While Robinson said Chowel is making an effort. He asked, “What precedent are we setting? Are we saying okay you can do what you want to do and this guy can come in and not follow that?”
Ellis agreed that issues discussed were critical, but suggested that they could be handled in a different manner.
Robinson said the ID board is trying to work through issues. “We don’t want to run business off, that’s not our intent… but we want to make sure they are within the law.”
Fountain said the result Thursday was “a good meeting” and “the chairman of the ID board has promised in good faith that if they can work with Chowel then they will grant them the extension.”
Fountain said, “I think you’ve got their attention. They realize that they’ve got to do it. Even though some things might not ought have been in that agreement, but it was in there. And since it was in there, we’ve got to deal with it.”
He thanked the ID board and the council members who were present. He said, “We’re going to work through it. I’ve got that confidence.”
Robinson said the attorney (Richardson) would communicate on the board’s behalf. He confirmed that while no extension was granted Thursday the goal of the board is to “work through it (issues)” and “move forward.”

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