County OKs business park partnership with Baldwin
Douglas County commissioners gave Baldwin what it was looking for last week when they agreed to invest nearly $275,000 in the city's business park.
Commissioners unanimously agreed at last Wednesday's meeting with Baldwin council members to use $273,000 in county taxes to purchase a triangular 43-acre section on the northwest edge of town to be used for the development of a business park.
Though the vote at Wednesday's meeting in the Baldwin library was not formal, Commissioner Bob Johnson said he believed, as did the other commissioners, the project was an appropriate one for the county to partner with the city.
"My sense is that my fellow commissioners feel the same," he said. "As a county commissioner, I'm glad we have an opportunity to share in this."
But before the purchase of the land is formally approved by the commission, Johnson said Baldwin has to show that it is committed to spending $600,000 in developing the infrastructure -- utilities, streets and sewers -- for the business park.
That's something the city is ready to do, according to Council Member Tony Brown.
"As a city council, our next step is to talk about financing it," said Brown, who is chair of the economic committee.
He said the 43-acre site, which is located on the northeast corner of U.S. Highway 56 and East 1600 Road, directly north of Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center, would probably be developed in two phases.
He said he would expect the first phase to fill with businesses and be completed in five to 10 years, with the second phase finished in 15 years.
Brown said there were concerns addressed at last week's meeting, including the fact that no business has indicated that it would definitely build in Baldwin.
But he said it wasn't typical for parks like Baldwin's to wait until businesses expressed an interest in building.
"That typically does not happen," he said. "If we waited for that, we would be waiting a long time.
"This is a progressive step toward securing more businesses in town," he said. "I think of this as an investment in the future of Baldwin."
Brown said there were also concerns from citizens about the business park being located across from the elementary school.
"But we aren't talking about heavy truck traffic that will be coming from there," he said.
"And with the increase in traffic, we might actually get the speed limit lowered there," he said. "It could actually make it safer."
In the next few weeks, the city council will be looking at a variety of ways to fund the infrastructure development, Brown said, especially since council members know there are concerns about increasing taxes.
"We realize nobody wants their taxes raised. We're trying to look at other options," he said. "But, again, we need to look at this as an investment."