Loudon backs ag center feasibility study

Vicky Newman-News-Herald

After years of discussions, a new multiuse agricultural center is a step closer to becoming a reality.

Loudon City Council approved a $4,000 funding request Tuesday for a feasibility study. The funding was approved unanimously and with little discussion.

The motion was made by Councilman Lynn Millsaps and seconded by Councilman Michael Cartwright.

"Looks like this is the first hurdle," Millsaps, who had expressed concerns about the funding, said.

"We will fund our share," Mayor Judy Keller said after the vote.

The majority of study financing will be through a United States Department of Agriculture grant, but Loudon County municipalities are being asked to show support with a $10,000 local match.

Donna Eason-Pile, U.T. Extension Development assistant director, said the feasibility study will determine the best location for the facility.

"The preferred location is somewhere in Loudon close to Highway 72 and the I-75 interchange," Eason-Pile said. She and others involved with the effort will meet with the Lenoir City budget committee March 5 to ask for grant match funding.

The USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant is specifically for feasibility studies, and USDA recommended the study before application is made for facility grants, Eason-Pile said. The grant application will be submitted in March and announcement of approval should come by mid-April. The study should be completed by mid-summer.

If the grant is not approved, Loudon and Lenoir City will not be out any money, Eason-Pile said. The grant would pay $25,000.

Meanwhile, a group of local people involved in the building effort will be going to Rainsville, Ala., to see an event conducted at the Northeast Alabama Agri-Business Center. Eason-Pile said the center, on which the Loudon facility would be patterned, is booked with events every weekend.

In an unrelated matter, council also heard an appeal from Rolf Randby, who said he wants Loudon traffic light sensors repaired.

"On behalf of all citizens in Loudon County, I am trying to get the city to do something. I hope the city will decide to spend money to fix what they have before they implement a new light on Highway 72," Randby said.

"Explain to me to my satisfaction why it cannot be done. I don't understand why you people do not check the lights." Randby said.

Lynn Mills, city manager, said there had been no complaints. While the lights may force a few seconds of waiting, they are not a safety issue, he said.

"The lights have been working on a timer for more than a year and we've been keeping track ... The sensors are all worn out and we are waiting to see if the state is going to pave before we change the loops," he said.

Randby interjected. "I don't care if there's been no complaints. I'm complaining now," he said.

In other action, council members:

l Approved on first reading an ordinance amendment to the zoning map to rezone 8.13 acres at 343 Georgia St., from M-1 light industrial to R-1 single family residence. A public hearing on the ordinance is set for 7:20 p.m. March 19.

l Approved a resolution authorizing submission of a 2012 Housing Rehabilitation Application to the Department of Economic and Community Development for $500,000 in CDBG grant funds.

l Approved purchase of a 2008 For Crown Victoria from Loudon Utilities Board for use by the Loudon Police Department and a 2004 Ford Escape from LUB for use by Parks and Recreation.