The IDA board at its June meeting: From left, clockwise, Doug Anderton, Chairman Nathan Wooten, Sharon Moore, County Attorney Robin Rogers, Amanda Price (a law student interning with Rogers), outgoing director Peter Cervelli, incoming director William Back, Larry Moore and George Nelson.
The June 25 meeting of the Dade Industrial Development Authority (IDA) was the last one for Peter Cervelli, its director since the job was created for him in 2013. But Cervelli did not go out with a bang. Despite the appearance of alluring and mysterious names on the agenda—Project Discovery, Project Gingerbread, Project Shamrock and Project Neptune—not a whole lot seems to be going on with IDA right now, or in any case not a whole lot IDA is willing to share with the public. As Cervelli’s successor, William Back, said of one of the enigmatic projects: “We’ll talk about that a little bit more in executive session.”
In this sense “executive” means behind closed doors, and though IDA spends public moneys, grants tax forgiveness and gives away public lands, a great deal of what it does is “executive.” The code names such as Discovery, Gingerbread, et al., are assigned to industries possibly interested in building facilities in Dade, or businesses interested in relocating here, that wish to remain "executive" unless or until they accept the tribute packets with which IDA woos them, supposedly in competition with the development arms of other counties and cities also desperate for jobs for their residents.
Back had little to report on any of the larger projects but said a small truck repair facility in Alabama—not big enough for IDA’s incentives, he said—was interested in locating closer to Vanguard, the truck trailer manufacturer IDA brought to Dade.
And he spoke at some length of the Leonard Nixon property in Wildwood, the portion of the old Dave L. Brown farm that IDA has entered into an agreement with the Dade Water Authority to extend sewer to in order to make it more attractive to industry. Some hilly areas would not be suitable for development, he said, and: “It would be very expensive for level.” He said he’d talk with Nixon about which areas are in fact suitable for industry.
Back talked about installing sculpture on the land—“something that would help set the tone”—and about creating a wooded area to shield the industrial site from the road. “The cost of having a little buffer zone is almost nothing,” he said.
But so far such talk seemed speculative—Back mentioned no prospective buyer, and reminded the board: “You guys have two years to find somebody to buy the whole property.” He also went over the conditions IDA had set for the land: No recycling, animal products or paper could be processed there under the terms of the IDA/Dade Water Authority agreement.
“Can he still do whatever he wants with that property if he doesn’t go through IDA?” asked IDA Chairman Nathan Wooten.
Yes, said County Attorney Robin Rogers, who acts as IDA's legal advisor. IDA’s “hook” was the sewer extension, he said. “If he doesn’t go our way, he can work these things out himself,” said Rogers. So if Nixon doesn’t mind forfeiting the sewer agreement, he can sell to whomever he pleases, to do whatever the buyer sees fit with.
Cervelli said the price of the whole (363-acre) property was $4.3 million, but: “If there were a buyer for a significant amount of that property, we would talk to him.”
In more routine business, Back told the board he needed $7000 for new signs at the industrial park. A Top of Georgia grant had been procured for $5000, but the signs cost $12,000. He also said the county was clearing at IDA's expense 40 acres of available industrial park land on both sides of Vanguard Drive.
And he asked for authorization to solicit bids for a new roof for the CHI Memorial clinic building on Main Street, for which IDA acts as the landlord, as it does to several industrial properties. “It’s not going to be less than $20,000.”
He projected the roof would cost $25,200, and also reminded the board it needed to pay Georgia’s Joint Development Authority $1500 to participate in its website research initiative.
Back said IDA’s budget would be approved next month but for now said it had a negative balance of $6800.
“That’s going to be the way it is for a while,” said Peter Cervelli.
IDA meets at 3 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month in the Dade Administrative Building. The next meeting is on July 23.