By Jean Cole
Athens City Council members have tentatively agreed to contribute $131,808 for a road project at the Elm Industrial Park in north Athens that could create jobs and boost utility sales, an official said.
Tom Hill, president of the Limestone County Economic Development Association, asked council members Monday for the money to match a Tennessee Valley Authority grant. The TVA grant would pay $250,000, or about 50 percent, of the proposed Wilkinson Street/Airport Road extension at the park. The project, which could be completed by next fall, would consist of 2,600 feet of two-lane road, Hill said.
The estimated cost of the extension is $513,616, minus $250,000 from the TVA Invest Prep Grant. Hill is asking the city and Limestone County to split the remaining $236,616. Council members agreed to contribute half as long as the county agreed to do the same.
Why the need?
In May 2012, the city and county bought 128 acres of land in the area of the park, bringing to 174 the total acreage in the park, Hill said.
The park would appeal to any industry that needs rail access to receive raw materials or to move its finished product to market, whether that be a maker of electronic components or an automotive manufacturer, Hill said.
“This site is two miles from Interstate 65 and it is served by the CSX railroad,” Hill said. “The site has had all engineering studies completed to make it development ready.”
What the park was lacking was the extension needed to create an industrial access road that would improve the park’s marketability, he said.
Hill said 60 different agencies applied for the grant in question. TVA officials toured 20 different sites but decided to fund only 13, including the Athens site.