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ALFA head Jimmy Parnell cites ‘silly issues, egos’ casting uncertainty over Alabama Farm Center project

Concerns are mounting as to whether the Alabama Farm Center, a project to build a multi-function livestock and event complex in Chilton County, will come to fruition due to the inability of governmental entities to collaborate.

According to estimates, the Alabama Farm Center is worth $40-$55 million in regional economic impact and is projected to create 300-400 hundred jobs. The project’s selected 500-acre site is dually-owned by the City of Clanton and Chilton County.

The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, the lead entity of the public-private partnership, is concerned about the Farm Center’s future due to what its president, Jimmy Parnell, sees as “silly issues” and “egos” that he believes are stymieing its outlook.

During last week’s Clanton City Council meeting, Parnell addressed city leaders, urging them to resolve outstanding issues which he says have gotten in the way of progress.

“The project [h]as moved slow, and certainly not at the speed I want,” said Parnell. “As I have described it to folks who have asked me about it all over the state, most of the challenges we’ve had are what I call silly issues, egos that get in the way of progress.”

The ALFA head stated that “due to permitting issues” it is “nearly impossible” to meet the 2023 deadline outlined in the warranty deed to complete the project’s construction. Parnell also made mention of the need to provide sewer and water infrastructure to the site, something local government has yet to accomplish.

“I would ask that y’all work together, put the egos aside and lets move this project forward,” said Parnell. “If you choose not to do that, just say so. I’ve got other towns that would give their right arm for this project today. I’m going to build this project somewhere – my preference is here in Clanton. I just need us to get past these egos and let’s work together with everybody to do that.”

The Farmers Federation president touched on the need to raise the adequate amount of capital that is necessary to bring the project to fruition. Furthermore, Parnell made note of Clanton Mayor Jeff Mims stating that he would reportedly derail the project.

“You cannot imagine how it affects a fundraising campaign when the mayor of a city is quoted that he wants to put the skids on the project,” Parnell stated.

According to the Clanton Advertiser, Parnell’s quoting of Mims was in reference to an August 19 meeting of the council, when the mayor seemingly threatened to momentarily oversee the project’s decline.

“They (Chilton County Commission) are basically doing everything they can to push us (Clanton City Council) out, and if they do, I will let you know as mayor, I will do everything in my power to put the skids on that place until we find out what we are going to do,” the outlet reported Mims as saying.

Parnell further stated that he believes the city should be able to resolve any outstanding issues within a month and decide “if [the council] want[s] this project here or not.”

The mayor responded to Parnell, saying that he would like to meet and discuss “mov[ing] the project forward.”

Parnell concluded his remarks by stating, “I’d be glad to visit with anybody about any topic. I do ask that we all work together, though. We’ve got to quit this ego stuff and move forward.”

Many believe the project would be an economic boon to Central Alabama and the localities of the City of Clanton and Chilton County. However, it remains to be seen if local government entities will be able to answer the call from Parnell to coordinate and ensure the project comes to realization.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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