Baldwin County Commissioners voted Tuesday to spend $290,000 of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) dollars for industrial development toward the Fall Line Freeway Industrial Park project.
Previously, officials with the Georgia State Properties Commission (SPC) and a delegation of stakeholders from the Fall Line Regional Development Authority (FLRDA) reached an agreement on a price to purchase more than 400 acres of state land at the intersection of U.S. Highway 441 and the Fall Line Freeway. Land in the four corners of the intersection falls in Wilkinson and Baldwin counties and has been the subject of the joint development authority since the inception of the joint development authority in 2000.
The site contains 477 acres of property that was part of Baldwin State Forest. Wilkinson County will put forth the other half of the estimated purchase price of $581,000.
The FLRDA negotiated the property cost down from the state's original $990,000 assessment. Closing should occur by January 2015.
Frank Wall, chairman of the FLRDA and the Development Authority of Wilkinson County, said he's ready to get the deal done. It could happen before the end of the new year.
“The sooner the better,” Wall said. “It's an ideal location, and I think It'd be good for both counties and the state. We are all going to gain from it.”
The FLRDA plans to develop the properties to provide industrial and commercial space for businesses that would benefit from being located at the intersection of one of the busiest U.S. highways in the state and the long-awaited Fall Line Freeway.
The FLRDA project has taken so long due to highway construction delays.
The Georgia Department of Transportation's (GDOT) work on the final nine miles of the 215-mile Fall Line Freeway built between state Route 24 and Highway 441 south of Milledgeville in Baldwin and Wilkinson counties has a contract completion date of Nov. 30, 2015.
“That's why this has taken so long. There is no point in having the property sitting there if (GDOT) doesn't get through with the highway and get out of the way,” Wall said.
U.S. 441 is an alternate route to Interstates 75 and 95 in the state, and the Fall Line Freeway will be an alternate to Interstate 20. The intersection will provide great opportunities for economic development.
Engineering firm Thomas & Hutton was hired for due diligence. The group is “well respected” in key industrial development sectors. They will advocate for the joint park.
“They will guide us on what to do and how to do it,” Wall said.
Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority Executive Director Matt Poyner looks forward to marketing the fall line property for industrial prospects. Baldwin County will provide utilities such as water and sewage to the FLRDA acreage.
“We already have people that are excited about two communities working together,” Poyner said. “Regionalism is such a key right now in the state. It's going to be a success.”