Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) Executive Director Valerie Gray gave the LaFayette City Council a quarterly economic update as part of Monday’s regular meeting at City Hall. The council also made some changes to the LaFayette Fire and EMS billing system at the meeting.
Grey told the council that the CCDA is currently working 21 active projects. She said in regards to LaFayette, they are actively recruiting retail businesses, and are working with a development group to help come up with a strategic plan for attracting retail. And since October, the CCDA has spent 148.83 hours working directly on LaFayette projects.
Gray said she has met with Allen Tucker, of Harmon Engineering, to develop two master plans for the LaFayette Industrial Park. She announced that discussions have taken place about possibly naming part of the LaFayette Park an AdvantageSite. In explaining what an AdvantageSite is Gray said “it’s a site that is at least a minimum of 25 acres, all the infrastructure and utilities have to be to the property lines. We have to demonstrate that we either own the property, it is owned by a public entity or we have an ironclad option to purchase the property in an expeditious manner for any type of prospect or client.” She explained that it is basically a “shovel-ready site.” On an AdvantageSite all the environmental and impact studies have been done. It can take up to a year to achieve AdvantageSite certification, and can be costly because of the amount of testing required.
Gray added that the CCDA’s only other AdvantageSite had been purchased recently by Hantal Alabama.
Gray told the council that the CCDA had also been working on a retail plan for a dry cleaners in the city, and have reached out to several different franchises and other small business owners to come up with a plan to get a cleaners back open in the city.
She said that summer is typically a slow time of the year and the CCDA’s Kimberly Carter had been recently making existing industry visits in LaFayette. Gray said one of the major complains from businesses locally is a lack of cell phone service, and that they are looking into the issue.
After her report, Gray asked the council to enter into executive session to discuss information that could have a detrimental effect on the competitive position of the city with regards to a current negotiation if made public.
City Attorney Mac Tucker also asked to discuss the legal ramifications about a matter that may possibly be litigated depending on the council’s position as part of the executive session.
The council then agreed to enter into executive session.
When the council returned from the nearly hour-long executive session, Mayor Barry Moody announced that no action had been taken and the council moved forward with the agenda.
Public Safety Director Kenny Vines and LaFayette Fire Department Captain Heath Cotney spoke next to the council about potential changes in billing for the LaFayette Fire and EMS Department. Vines said that with the budget coming up, the department had been looking at shortfalls that can be addressed.
One area that was being looked at was the agreement with the nursing homes. Cotney said that transports from the nursing home to medical facilities are not a problem and are covered by insurance because they are usually medically necessary, however there are many times that the LaFayette EMS has to return the patient to the nursing home and that is not medically necessary and thus not covered. He said that the billing company recommended going no lower than 10 percent of what Medicare/Medicaid covers. No action was taken on that matter, however the council asked for recommendations from the nursing homes about typical charges.
The council did take action on billing services for the EMS with area funeral homes. Based on Cotney’s recommendation, the council approved a flat $150 charge for transport to funeral homes in the city limits. Outside the city limits, there will be a $150 rate with a $12/mile charge.
The council also approved Cotney’s recommendation on sending outstanding bills off to collections only if the amount equals or exceeds $101. Any amount less than that will be written off.
In other business, the council:
• Approved a proclamation recognizing the Second Annual Back To School Bask set for July 26 from 11 am to 2 pm at the LaFayette High School band field. The event is sponsored by Powell Chapel United Methodist Church and the Chambers County School District. Free school supplies will be given away in addition to many other activities.
*For full story see this week’s print edition of The Sun.