The approval of a $750,000 grant to the City of Athens for sewer expansion was approved by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The sewer project will serve the area around the Huntsville-Browns Ferry Road and Interstate 65 interchange, including the construction of a Buc-ee’s and other retail projects.

“Growth along Interstate 65 continues as the state of Alabama experiences extensive investment from the automotive industry,” the ARC said in the grant announcement.

ARC said the construction of Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing has brought additional business interest to the area, such as talk of a $35-million Buc-ee's Athens travel center, and development of the I-65/Huntsville-Browns Ferry Road interchange and construction of the travel center "cannot be supported without the installation of new sewer infrastructure."

The City of Athens also received approval of a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant earlier this year to help fund the sewer expansion. The project is estimated to cost $5.5 million. The City refinanced a 2010 bond to take advantage of low interest rates to help fund sewer projects, including this expansion. The City also has an agreement with Buc-ee’s to help fund the expansion.

“Athens appreciates our Legislative Delegation, ADECA and ARC for supporting this project,” Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said. “ADECA Director Ken Boswell and Sen. Arthur Orr helped set up a meeting in Athens so state and ARC officials could see the growth we’re experiencing and the opportunity this project provides Athens to help our sales tax revenue.”

Marks said approximately 40% of the City’s revenues are comprised of sales tax. That revenue funds police, fire, sanitation, recreation and other city services.

“Buc-ee’s and this sewer expansion are opening up for us the opportunity to pursue more retail development at the interchange to ensure we add to and protect our sales tax base,” Marks said.

The new sewer will “catalyze future economic growth and development for the City of Athens,” according to ARC.

Orr said securing the funding will help Athens and Limestone County continue to “plan strategic growth, making it the fastest-growing county in the State.”

“I appreciate Mayor Marks leading this effort to attract critical retail dollars to Athens and Limestone County,” Orr said. “I’m glad the State could help this effort by securing this grant via Commissioner Boswell and ADECA.”

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