CHILDERSBURG – The Childersburg City Council approved extension of a land option for a potential industry in its meeting Tuesday night.

Keystone Energy Group LLC will pay the city $2,500 to extend its agreement for land in the Industrial Park through Dec. 31, 2015.

“What they plan to do is to sell wood pellets to Europe. Pellets are burned in Europe to reduce the carbon footprint,” said Calvin Miller, executive director of the Talladega County Economic Development Authority. “They just don’t have the customer lined up yet, and it’s going to take a while to get that done, so they have asked for the option to be extended on their property, and they are paying to extend it.”

Mayor B.J. Meeks noted that Keystone “already has a good bit of money invested in engineering work.”

In November, Miller said Keystone was planning a $100 million project in Childersburg and had already secured tax abatements, option on the property and applied for state air permits. The county has been in talks to bring Keystone to Childersburg for more than two years. Miller said the city’s Industrial Park has several favorable aspects for the project.

“One, it’s in the middle of an area that has a lot of trees. They call it the wood basket,” Miller previously said. “Two, the site is served by two rails, so the transportation costs of shipping the pellets are minimized.” 

Also at the meeting, the council added an item to its agenda to approve drafting an ordinance to impose a 1 cent sales tax increase. The increase would fund road repairs around the city. Mayor B.J. Meeks said the city has held several public hearings on the issue, and it is time to move forward.

“Last time we did a road project, we spent a million and it barely scratched the surface,” Meeks said. “There is just no way we can save the money in our general budget. We need to put a tax in place and go ahead and do a bond and pay for it with the tax money.”

The extra penny would increase the local tax Childersburg collects from 3 cents to 4 cents on the dollar. State and county levies mean the total sales tax would go from 8 cents to 9 cents. Meeks said this increase would raise about $400,000 a year and $2.4 million over the next six years. 

“That would go a long way on the roads,” he said. “Once we get caught up, we might be able to do smaller projects every year. The roads are in terrible shape, and I don’t like to raise taxes, but I think that’s the only option we’ve got.”

Council member Angesa Twymon said she has compiled a list of roads in most need of repair.

Citizen Jimmie Landers spoke out and said the city has another problem to address before it repaves roads.

“First of all, I don’t think 1 percent is enough,” Landers said of the proposed tax hike. “If you’re going to do anything, do 2 percent. But on top of that, you can put all the asphalt down you want to, but if the water department doesn’t fix the leaks and they go right behind it and dig it up, you’ve done no good.”

Meeks said the city would hope to get a list of the roads to be repaired to the Water Works, Sewer and Gas Board to give it an opportunity to replace any bad piping before the roads are fixed.

In other business, the council:

• Approved the purchase of two 2007 Chevrolet Tahoes from Hoover Police Department at $10,000 each. The council also approved expenses for striping and equipping the vehicles for police use.

• Approved $450 for repairs to Second Street. 

• Set a public hearing for July 1 to discuss adoption of a new comprehensive plan and zoning map.

• Approved expenses to send acting Fire Chief Tim Shelnutt and Parks and Recreation employee Della Whitworth to training sessions.

The next regular council meeting is June 17 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.