CEDA, airport unveil more about ‘Project Black’

Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer is seen at the Cullman County Commission meeting Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) Director Dale Greer addressed the Cullman County Commission at its work session and meeting Tuesday morning, sharing more details on the for-now-named “Project Black” at Cullman Regional Airport.

The commission gave CEDA and the Cullman Airport Board the green light to spend the money to obtain the final site and building costs for the project, which would see a 13,000-square-foot hangar with a 94-feet wide, 22-foot high door. The entire building would be 25 feett tall and include 2,000 square feet of office space at Cullman Regional Airport for a major aviation company.

Greer said to the commission, “This request actually asks you to let us go ahead and require spending some money to do site work to actually develop the full building plans for a cost estimate. I think we’re talking somewhere around $2 million if we can get all of that in place.”

Greer said preliminary spending to project final costs include site testing and engineering and would help structure the deal with the company, which retrofits helicopters. He said, if built, the site at Cullman’s airport would be the company’s only location to do this specific work.

“This company is very unique, and the top three guys there are actually retired military and all of those have a lot of experience there,” he said. “This company would purchase helicopters from the military and retrofit them with new cockpit instrumentation.”

Greer continued, “Their facility would be the only one they have in the country that would be a test facility installation. They’d do all of the work there and bring in people from around the world to see about their work and capabilities of the new instrumentation. It also opens the door for them to do private business with other pilots and owning a private facility once they’re up here. I think it’s a very good project. I think it falls in line with what TVA has set for us. TVA just completed a study for Cullman County, and it was through a strategic development group that was the consultant, and they shared one of the four growth areas for us is that airport because of the connection with all of the business out of Huntsville. I think we have some great potential there.”

The commission passed a resolution to support the City of Cullman’s application for a $500,000 grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) InvestPrep Program. For the grant, both the City of Cullman and Cullman County must match $500,000 ($250,000 each), meaning the potential for a $1 million investment in the Cullman Regional Airport. The application has to be filed by the close of business Feb. 28. The money would be used for site preparation work that is already a part of the Cullman Regional Airport’s five-year improvement plan.

Cullman County Attorney Chad Floyd shared, “I’ve prepared a resolution. It looks a lot like the City’s. They’re already applicants for the grant funds, but because we are partners for the airport property, this just allows us to say we support the application for the TVA grant funds, which is not committing us to a project necessarily just yet, but it does allow us to apply for those.”

In other business, the commission recognized Cullman County Garage employee Larry Watwood, who is retiring after 16 years of service. Watwood started at the county garage in March 2004.

Cullman County Garage Manager Joe Perry praised Watwood, saying, “I’d like to say Larry has been an exemplary employee. He’s been one of those rare individuals to work every morning with a smile on his face, never complained or anything. He’s led by great example and he’s been a mentor to a lot of the men down there. We’re very lucky to have had him and I’m telling him we want to celebrate his retirement with him.”

The commission also approved:

  • Resolution 2020-12: Speed limit change on County Road 1511 from 45 mph to 35 mph.
  • Renewal of the County’s participation in the Association of County Commissions of Alabama’s Self-Insurance Liability fund for calendar years 2021 through 2023
  • Payment to ADS for elevator monitors ($9,282.50)
  • Emergency payment to Dye Service for labor on compressor in chiller ($7,247)
  • Payment to Wittichen Supply Company for parts of compressor in chiller ($6,774.95)
  • Extension on bid no. 1276 from change of herbicide to Helena chemical
  • Extension on bid no. 1299 guardrail to Alabama guardrail
  • Extension on bid no. 1300 Pyro Shows of Alabama to do a fireworks display at Smith Lake Park’s 4th of July Celebration
  • Awarded bid no. 1320 Good Hope installed Bituminous plant mix for total of $7,383
  • Awarded bid for bus wash building for CARTS through C.H. Harris, Inc. for $269,950
  • Approved proposed plat for Smith Lake RV Resort phase 3, located in District 2 off of County Road 255, County Road 2030 and County Road 2034.

The next regularly scheduled Cullman County Commission meeting will be March 10, 2020 at 10 a.m. in the commission meeting room on the first floor of the Cullman County Courthouse.

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(Left to right) Cullman County Commissioner Kerry Watson, Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker, Larry Watwood and Cullman County Commissioner Gary Marchman pose for a photo recognizing Watwood’s retirement from the Cullman County Garage. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

Maggie Darnell