By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
A Marshall County Board of Public Utilities pipeline construction crew this week started trenching and laying water mains north of Chapel Hill to better serve the Dockers shoe warehouse so it can be expanded.
That's the word from local officials who also report the county is applying for a state grant to finish the road into Lewisburg's Interstate 65 Commerce Park where a food company plans to construct a building and the road would reach the city's building constructed on speculation that a prospective employer would buy it.
Those two signs of economic progress were revealed this week when County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett announced the road grant application and Commissioner Rocky Bowden, chairman of the MCBPU, reported the utility's construction crew had started laying pipe in the north end of the county.
Jobs at the Dockers' facility north of Chapel Hill may well be more available and presumably more secure because of a unanimous vote by commissioners more than a year ago. That's how Liggett saw the situation in April 2011 when officials concluded that a $222,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help create a few more jobs.
Since then the grant's been approved, and MCBPU has borrowed $515,500 from the USDA's Rural Development program to help Dockers.
Calls to company officials at the warehouse and its Genesco office in Nashville were unsuccessful on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
Nevertheless, Tommy Whaley, superintendent of the MCBPU, provided a good view of the pipeline construction job that started near the intersection of Sweeney Lane, Thick Road and Lunns Store Road.
Two eight-inch lines will converge at a 10-inch trunk line that goes to Dockers, Whaley said.
Last year, officials at the County Courthouse Annex explained that increased pressure would increase fire safety for the warehouse. That will give the business an opportunity to expand in this area north of Chapel Hill, avoid a move, possibly create more jobs, and preserve work for people in a county that's suffered an unemployment rate of some 12-20 percent in recent years.
Work on the pipeline started Tuesday morning and Whaley says, "We're shooting for August, but it may be September or October" before the job is completely done.
Along Blackwell Road, several thousand feet of pipe are stored awaiting the construction crew. They're being stored on Tommy Robinson's property at no charge to the MCBPU, Whaley said.
As for the other sign of economic progress here, the county mayor told commissioners on Tuesday night that he may have to call a special meeting of the panel in about two weeks "to apply for a grant for a road."
While the road goes north from Mooresville Highway into the city's business park, that land is still in the county. And while the city could apply for a state grant to improve and extend the road in the I-65 Commerce Park, the county is eligible for a grant with a different matching schedule that will save the project money, Liggett said.
Calling another comission meeting would "speed things up for the construction of the plant" planned by Imperial Foods, the industrial prospect landed last month by Lewisburg Economic Director Greg Lowe, according to Liggett.
"It is a good thing that we can do," Liggett told the commission.
Officials with the South Central Tennessee Development District office in Mount Pleasant were awaiting an engineering estimate for the roadwork, Liggett said. However, he said the project might cost several hundred thousand dollars.
"Our rate would be an 18 percent match," he said. "If the city applies, it would be a 20 percent match... The plan is for the city and the county to split that."
For example, given figures provided, if the dollar amount needed was $700,000, the city and county would provide $63,000 each instead of $70,000 each.
Because of other contracts, the Imperial Foods project was revealed to Lewisburg's Industrial Development Board last month. The IDB meets again on Tuesday.