With future economic development in mind, the Decatur City Council approved an engineering agreement that will explore how to best serve a large, unsewered area on the city’s industrial northeast side.
The council voted 5-1 on Monday to approve the $180,859 agreement with engineering firm Clark Dietz Inc., with Councilman David Horn voting "no." Councilman Rodney Walker was not present.
The 459-acre study area is centered around Brush College Road, Reas Bridge Road and Hubbard Avenue. It would explore expanding the scope of an existing project that will bring sewer service to InnovaFeed, the French company that is planning to build the world's largest insect protein facility in Decatur.
The company is partnering with Archer Daniels Midland Co. to build the facility, which will cover 250,000 square feet upon completion and cost about $18 million.
The plant will be built on land on the east side of Brush College Road, south of Richland Community College. The first phase of construction will begin in late 2021 with a planned completion and opening in 2023.
The council approved a redevelopment agreement with the company in December with the city agreeing to build sewer infrastructure with an estimated $1.25 million cost to serve the facility. InnovaFeed is paying $200,000 toward the project with the city picking up the remainder of the tab.
However, city staff recommended exploring a project in greater scope that would make expanding sewer access in the area easier and perhaps encouraging future development.
The preliminary estimate for engineering and construction cost of the expanded project is $2.9 million.
“We've made a commitment to build the sewer for InnovaFeed because they're going to bring 240 good-paying jobs to our community plus some indirect jobs,” said City Manager Scot Wrighton. “So that that was part of the deal. They're going to pay for some of it, but we're going to pay for most of it.”
“And so while we're at it, should we add some additional capacity so that that makes these other industrial sites that are in that same area that would flow to the same thing and make it cheaper to develop them when that time comes? That was really the question the council had tonight,” Wrighton said.
The proposal received some pushback from Horn, who noted that the city has millions of dollars worth of existing sewer work that’s needed to be done in other parts of the city.
However, other council members agreed that it was a unique situation with that part of the city potentially ripe for more economic development.
“If we're going to invest, we don't want to just stick a toe just to meet the needs of this one entity,” said Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe. “It makes much more sense to do it in a modest but responsible way to be ready to expand quickly and efficiently.”
Design services are expected to be complete by July. The project would then be put out for bid and up for final council approval by August or September.
In other news:
Hoping to increase participation, the council approved increasing coverage of the city’s overhead sewer program from 75% to 100% and increasing the maximum amount from $7,500 to $10,000.
The program, established in 2009, is meant to assist residents with properties prone to sewer backups by funding the installation of outfall pipes. The work significantly reduces the likelihood of sewer backups. There have been 39 participants in the program since 2009.
As part of the change, funds will be allowed to be used on rental properties. The Sanitary District of Decatur will continue to reimburse the city for 25% of the total cost of each installation.
The council also voted to purchase 67 Macon County trust properties for $10,050, or $150 per property. The properties -- taken from those delinquent on their property taxes -- in question did not sell at a tax sale this fall.
The council in 2019 previously authorized the purchase of 750 such properties for $75 apiece. Wrighton said city ownership makes it easier to maintain the properties and integrate them into community revitalization efforts.
The city’s estimated cost for maintaining these properties was $353,000 in 2020, according to city documents.
The agreement is pending approval of the Macon County Board.