Marla Jones, Managing Editor
FORT PAYNE, Ala.-- The possible opening of a Food City location in Fort Payne remains unclear, according to Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine.
“It’s totally out of our hands, at this time” stated Mayor Brian Baine.
The project has seen much controversy as citizens have addressed the Fort Payne Council on two different occasions, with the majority being against the new grocery store locating in town.
The Fort Payne Council approved earlier this year a Memorandum of Understanding. After an error in the city’s legal advertisement was published in a local newspaper, The Times Journal. The Fort Payne City Council threw out the previously approved Memorandum of Understanding with Marathon Realty Corporation upon the advice of Fort Payne City Attorney, Rocky Watson.
In a previous statement to Southern Torch, Attorney J. David Dodd stated that “ We believe the City Council was well advised to dismiss the complaint and sincerely hope that our City Council will exercise better care of the taxpayer’s money in the future”.
A new public hearing was held on Tuesday, August 30 for those on both sides of the debate. All council members and Mayor Brian Bain were present, with the exception of John M. Smith who recently had surgery.
While there was some present for the hearing that was in favor of the proposed development, the majority were against it. Opponents stated that while they were not against competition, they felt that if Food City wanted to open up new development, it should be on “their own dime…not Fort Payne taxpayers”. Others were concerned that their voices were not heard, as Council members did not answer their questions. Additionally, there is a pending opioid case that has been brought against Food City by the State of Tennessee Attorney General’s Office.
In the new Memorandum of Understanding, the City of Fort Payne will still pay $3.1 million, as an incentive to bring the development to Fort Payne. This amount is to be paid in installments as the development meets certain benchmarks. If Food City fails to open or if it closes within five years, it must repay all funds received from the City, with interest.
In reaching the agreement to pay $3.1 million, the City stated that they considered the new jobs that will be created, increased sales tax revenue, and the overall impact on the City’s economy.
The DeKalb County Economic Development Authority commissioned a study by the University of Alabama which concluded that Food City would “have a significant impact on the economy of both DeKalb County and the City of Fort Payne”.
The property on which Marathon Realty wants to build the development, according to a Fact Sheet presented by the City of Fort Payne, is owned by Drinkard Development.
According to Attorney Alan Dodd of Scruggs, Dodd & Brisendine law firm, the property is not owned by Drinkard Development, it is owned by an individual.
“We are for competition. Competition helps the customer, it makes them try harder, price groceries lower, and offer more services” stated Alan Dodd. “We are against giving this company a 3 million dollar leg up on the competition.”
After nearly two hours of comments from citizens and business owners, the Council agreed to pass the Memorandum of Understanding and to proceed with the proposed development.
The project is still pending approval by a judge as required by Amendment 772. A judge has not been appointed in the case, as of press time. After an appointment, a judge will review the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Fort Payne and Marathon Realty (Food City). The judge will then have forty days to make a ruling, whether it will be in the best interest of the citizens of Fort Payne.