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Mike Weaver believes the unkempt appearance of Millpond Business Center is stifling economic recruitment for the Radcliff site, and his concerns have stoked the city’s interest.
The North Hardin Economic Development Authority has partnered with Radcliff to clear a large portion of Millpond during winter months, creating a more aesthetically pleasing location and making the ground hospitable for routine mowing, Weaver said.
Weaver, the authority’s chairman, said the site was discussed in length during the December and January board meetings for the NHEDA and $10,000 was allocated toward clearing scrub brush after good timber was removed from the land.
After securing estimates, Weaver and the board learned the money would not go far if the work was contracted and started looking at the capacity of in-house labor.
Mayor J.J. Duvall said the authority is covering the cost of rental equipment and fuel while the city is loaning employees to manage equipment and perform the work.
Weaver said the partnership will produce around $35,000 worth of work for no more than $12,000.
The land will be cleared in the coming weeks. After that, Weaver said, workers will seed and sow the site with grass and bring a bush hog for regular mowing.
“It will make the site much more attractive,” he said.
Weaver plans to shy away from a landscaped look at Millpond, but said it will be much more presentable once completed.
The work itself will be of minimal cost for the city, Weaver said. The city has assigned employees and equipment for the work. Weaver described the employees as “aggressive workers” who were looking for more assignments because of dearth of outdoor jobs during colder months.
Weaver said the plan is to clear around 10 acres with the potential for more if time and money permit. The authority has rented equipment for 100 hours during February, he said.
The partnership comes after a restructuring of the NHEDA board and installation of Weaver as chairman. Radcliff City Council battled over Millpond’s future in 2010 when the NHEDA asked the city to invest $800,000 into leveling 40 acres of the terrain at the business center. Doing so would help attract a high-dollar company that has eluded the city for years, argued Brad Richardson, who served as the chairman’s executive director at the time.
The city ultimately approved a downgraded allowance of $475,000 on a 4-3 vote to partially grade the site, but the authority withdrew its request and refused to accept the money. The center was purchased by the city through state aid more than a decade ago, but the center has remained dormant save for a few businesses.
Richardsonlater resigned and Weaver came into the leadership role near the start of Duvall’s administration. In early 2012, the city announced a plan to form a committee with the assistance of the authority to market the center.
Weaver said he has held several meetings during the past four months with a business that supplies another company in Elizabethtown, which shows no desire to co-locate. Instead, the company wants a satellite site and Millpond holds some promise. Weaver declined to name the company.
Duvall said the clearing should make the site more business-ready and give the city an advantage as it looks to make a galvanized push for more economic development this year. Duvall has been spurned by several large restaurant and retail chains when approached but recently visited the Fort Benning, Ga., area to scout businesses near the military installation.
Duvall has said the visit could help Radcliff strategize its own advances toward businesses.
Later this month, Weaver plans to provide a lengthy report to Radcliff City Council about the authority’s financial status. Weaver said he inherited roughly $150,000 in debt, which has been paid down through timber sales and land reuse for crops.
He said the principal is now around $100,000 and thousands of dollars has been set aside to replenish the authority’s account. Prior to that, Weaver said the authority was borrowing money every week to cover expenses.
“When I took this over, we had to borrow money just to pay interest on the loan,” he said.
Weaver also plans to share the report with one of Hardin Fiscal Court’s assigned committees.
Richardson, who now serves as executive director of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, said the debt exceeded $100,000 when he left the authority but it was never considered a “tremendous concern” by the board at the time because of the value of the Millpond property.
When informed about the clearing, Richardson expressed enthusiasm and said it was “good news.”
“It’s prime real estate, and it’s going to get even more valuable as the connector (opens up),” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.