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Commission to decide on severance tax usage

By Staff
Jonathan Willis
The county commission is expected to vote on a resolution Thursday that could impact the amount of money the county uses for industrial recruitment.
State Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow has introduced a bill that would change the distribution of the county's severance tax. Currently the severance tax funds are earmarked for economic development.
If the commission votes to support Morrow's bill, the funds would be used for repairs to county roads. Morrow said he would do what the commission supports.
"I have had several people contact me about using the money to repair roads damaged by sand and gravel trucks," Morrow said. "When I originally introduced the bill and included the language for the tax to go toward economic development, that was at the request of the former county commission. If this commission wants to continue that I will withdraw my bill. They are the county government."
The Franklin County Development Authority is funded by the severance tax and the cities of Russellville and Red Bay.
During a commission work session Monday, Probate Judge Barry Moore read a letter of opposition to the bill from the Red Bay City Council and mayor.
"I agree that more funding, for road work, is needed in our county," said the letter signed by Red Bay Mayor Bobby Forsythe.
"However, I also realize that the more urgent need for our county at this time is industry that will be able to employ our residents to reduce the large number of unemployed people.
"It is very unlikely that any industry is going to seek us out wanting to locate in Franklin County. Without someone actively recruiting new industry, the chance of ever getting one is very slim. That is why this is not the time to reduce or even close the one organization that is working very hard to recruit new industry for our county."
The authority, which oversees industrial recruitment for Franklin County, would have its annual budget slashed from $210,000 to $50,000 if the bill passes.
The proposed changes come at a time when Franklin County is constructing a $1.3 million speculative building to attract industry.
The building purchase included $500,000 from Russellville, a $40,000 interest-free loan from the authority, a 5 percent interest loan of $500,000 from all five banks in Franklin County, a $150,000 interest-free loan from Russellville Utilities and a donation of 16 acres of the 20-acre site.
Commissioner Greg Smith said Monday that the commission did not ask for this to happen at this time.
"We didn't ask for this, but we got it," Smith said. "I am 100 percent for economic development and I'm 100 percent for good roads. Whatever decision is made won't change that."
Moore said that Morrow read the bill on March 31, but the commission was not made aware of it until April 3.
Glen Vinson and Clint Dotson, both members of the Franklin County Development Authority board, urged commissioners not to support the bill.
"If we get to the point where we can't promote and seek industry, we've let every town in the county down," Dotson said.