The Hempstead County Quorum Court called a special meeting for Thursday, March 12 to discuss a resolution to partner with ArDot on the Tyson Project.
The court heard from, Bob Chavis, an Engineer with Tyson, on the Feed Mill project they are planning on State Highway 195 between Fulton and Washington at the Kiamichi Railroad Crossing. Chavis stated that they will be building one large feed mill to accommodate both of their existing mills, one in Hope and one in Nashville. He explained that they would process 18,000 tons of feed per week at that location. The mill will employ around 50 people with 135 trucks per day operating out of the mill; 70 would go through Fulton and the other 70 would go through crossroads/Washington. Justice Jesse Henry asked how long it would take to build and responded that it would take 14 months from the time they break ground, with a 40 person crew for construction.
Steve Harris, with the Hempstead County Economic Development Center, addressed the court, stating that it will take 9 million dollars to improve roads in order for the trucks to travel from the mill to their destination. Towards this project, Tyson has agreed to contributed $3 million, $1.5 million will be contributed from AEDC in the form of a grant and ArDot has contributed $3 million, with an additional $1.5 million if the county will agree to take over maintenance on highways 332 in the Saratoga area, 195 in the Deann area and 355 in the Spring Hill area.
Harris stated that they had been working on this project since January, but the stumbling block was the repairs to the roads. Now the funds are there if the county will agree to maintain those highways. “This is a valuable piece of industry and I think we should progress on it,” said Harris.
Justice Ed Darling discussed the work and research that had taken place over the last three months, stating that this is an important project, not just for the 450 growers in this area, but for the 1,345 jobs supplied at these local plants. He urged the court to keep in mind that “this is a $65 million dollar project. Next to the Turk plant, this will be the largest single expenditure of capital in Hempstead County history. Our commitment to this may be a large number, but one we can’t afford not to do. Tyson is that important to our economy and our long-term health,” said Darling.
Judge Jerry Crane discussed the asset that this mill will be for the county and that if this is approved, then it opens up the doors for more jobs in the future.
After the resolution ordinance was read, a motion was made and approved unanimously.
There was also a resolution to allow Tyson a 50% property tax abatement for 10 years, which would provide them with the opportunity to only pay $32.5 million for the first 10 years, going up to the full $65 million after. Harris stated that Judge Crane could approve this himself, but he wanted to bring it to the justices for full support of the court. This tax abatement would allow Tyson to invest more money into the community and the school district. The resolution was read and the Justices voted to approve the ordinance.
In other business, Justice Darling updated the court on the new courthouse. Darling said that they will be sending out advertisements for new bids next week. He stated that they had the option of negotiating with the low bidder and signing a contract, but the architect had received several phones calls of contractors interested in bidding, including a local contractor that missed the first bid. The architect felt that from an economic standpoint, it would be in their best interest to reopen the bid process.
Judge Crane commented that he was happy they were moving forward with the courthouse relocation and that moving it downtown was moving Hope in a good direction. He explained to the board that going forward he wanted everyone to be very transparent and diligent with how the money is spent. He also praised the justices on their hard work over the last few months attending meetings and helping to get the information out.
Justice James Griffin stated that since the monthly Quorum Court meeting had been moved up 2 weeks that the handbooks were not ready. He stated that they will be ready soon and he will distribute them to the justices before the April meeting.
There will be a special Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting on Tuesday, March 17 at 4:30 and the next regular monthly meeting for Hempstead County Quorum Court will be held on Thursday, April 23, 2020 at 5:30 pm.