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Coorperative District make-up discussed by Utilities Board

The Tuskegee News of Tuskegee, Alabama

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The Tuskegee Cooperative District board responsibilities have increased from the conception of the board.

The district was originally established on Oct. 1, 2013 when the Utilities Board of Tuskegee (UBT) and Tuskegee City Council voted to allow three applicants authority to incorporate and organize a public corporation as a capital improvement cooperative district.

Representatives of the City and UBT were the only proposed members of the District. The applicants were Johnny Ford and UBT employees James Samuel and Linda Marable.

During the most recent regular meeting of the Utilities Board of Tuskegee on Aug. 4, it was reported the Cooperative District will be working with banking institutions to acquire funding for the projects at Exit 38 of 1-85 in Tuskegee. The District board was established to handle these responsibilities, but UBT members Chris Lee and Tony Haygood believe that the board needs to increase its membership before it handles any more business.

"I have always been concerned with the numbers on the board," said Chris Lee, UBT vice chairman and member of the City Council. "The board was established to do one thing, now it is getting ready to take on Exit 38.1 think we need to revisit the board and the members."

When the Board was established, Lee was absent from the joint meeting of the City Council and UBT.

Tony Haygood, who was involved with the establishment of the Board wants to have at least a five-person board, instead of three. Better dialogue and openness for the community can achieved with more members, Haygood believes.

"By having more than three people on a board, it allows better communication and transparency," said Haygood. "The board can have more input and greater independency with more members. Also, I would like to know what other roles or responsibilities the City or UBT will have prior to having to vote on a resolution at a meeting. If we are going to have to guarantee any funding or give any tax break, we need to know ahead of time."

The concerns of Lee and Haygood came up when James Samuel, general manager of UBT, stated that the Cooperative District — along with a some others — met with Jim

Byard Jr., director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). The Board met with Byard to obtain information and seek assistance with the project at Exit 38.

"It was a good meeting," Samuel said. "ADECA has agreed to provide UBT funding to extend the water and sewage lines from Highway 199 to the CSSX property on Notasulga Highway. The money will also allow UBT to expand and to put the electrical system underground for the projects at Exit 38."

The purpose for the Cooperative District board originally was to issue $2,790,000 in revenue bonds to purchase the Tuskegee Municipal Complex in order for the City to pay the $2.1 in arrears taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Now, the board has positioned itself to issue further bonds for the project at Exit 38. The District proposes to facilitate the financing, acquisition and construction of certain projects located within Tuskegee.

The area in which the District proposes to acquire or construct the projects includes all areas within the corporate limits of the City of Tuskegee.

Lee and Haygood want to have a meeting to further discuss their concerns and get more information on the additional requirements of the City and UBT. Samuel indicated that during the next UBT meeting scheduled for Sept. 2 that information will be forthcoming.

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Original Publication Date: August 13, 2015

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