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— Simmons Foods and the City of Decatur could receive a $232,000 grant through the Arkansas Economic Development Program for the construction of a parking lot at Simmons' new pet food plant in Decatur.

The City Council held a public hearing on Monday night to begin the process of obtaining the grant.

Jay Stallard, grants administrator for the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District, Inc., explained the grant to city council members. Simmons Foods is eligible for the grant because the company will be creating 81 new jobs in Decatur over the next year, Stallard said. Simmons will have until December 2010 to hire the 81 new employees or the company will have to repay the state $2,381 for each position not filled, he said.

Because the funding comes from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, cities and counties are the only entities eligible to receive the money, Stallard explained. The city will serve as a pass-through entity for the grant and will be responsible for administering a checking account for the funds.

The council passed four resolutions reaffirming its commitment to keep federal law and allowing the mayor to sign documents for the grant.

• Resolution 09-04 - Establishing an anti-displacement plan stating that the City of Decatur will replace all low- and moderate-income dwellings demolished or converted to make room for the new plant with other low- or moderate-income dwellings.

Stallard noted that the new Simmons pet food plant will not displace any dwellings, but said the resolution was necessary to comply with Housing and Community Development Act of 1974.

• Resolution 09-05 - Allowing the City of Decatur to submit a grant application and outlining the proper public hearing process. The resolution also authorizes the mayor to submit the application and expend funds if they are awarded.

• Resolution 09-06 - Establishing a civil rights enforcement plan prohibiting the use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies against individuals involved in non-violent civil rights demonstrations, as required by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974.

• Resolution 09-06 - Designating the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development, Inc., as project administrator for the grant and authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract with the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development, Inc.

Seth Cothrin and Mike Davis of Simmons Foods were present to answer questions about the new plant.

Mayor Bill Montgomery asked if the buildings were more than one story high. Davis replied that the buildings are only one story high, but are tall to accommodate equipment.

He said construction of the new plant should be complete by mid-February, and that the company plans to start hiring its maintenance staff in November before the new equipment is installed so the staff can help set up the equipment and become familiar with it before the plant opens.

Stallard said he will be compiling an economic report for the grant over the next several weeks.

News, Pages 1 on 09/16/2009

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