State Rep. Craig Ford of Gadsden has introduced legislation earlier this week to create jobs and kick start local road, bridge and economic development projects.
Called “The Etowah County Jobs Act,” the legislation will re-allocate a portion of the one-cent sales tax that was passed by Ford’s father, the late Rep. Joe Ford, to pay for a bond that financed construction of the jail, the judicial building and the county courthouse.
“It was never my dad’s intention for that one-cent sales tax to be used for anything other than those three projects,” said Ford. “But after that bond was paid off, the county commission kept it.
So I want to take a portion of that one-cent sales tax back and use it to create jobs and get the ball rolling on several local road, bridge and economic development projects.”
The act reallocates $1.5 million dollars of the current sales tax and splits it between the Etowah County Highway Development Committee, which would receive $1 million dollars each year, and the Riverfront Development Committee, which would receive $500,000 each year.
The act specifically states that the money allocated to the Highway Development Committee must first be used to complete the Southside Bridge.
“The Southside Bridge has needed to an extra lane for years,” said Ford. “People trying to drive from Southside to Rainbow City get caught in bottlenecked traffic, and it’s just a mess. It’s been like this for way too long, so this bill specifically says that not one dime will go to any other projects until the Southside Bridge is complete.”
Ford suggested that once the bridge is complete, the money could then be used for other local projects, such as completing the widening of U.S. Hwy 411 between Cherokee and Etowah counties, widening State Hwy. 77 in Attalla and finishing the I-759 extension.
Ford also proposed using some of the funds to build the on/off ramps to the county’s industrial megasite.
“I have disagreed with where the county chose to put the industrial megasite, but the land is bought and that’s that. You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube. And we can’t recruit any business or industry to the site if you can’t even drive up to it. So I definitely think that once the Southside Bridge is complete, we should look at using some of this money to get the ball rolling at the industrial megasite.”
In addition to road and bridge projects, the Etowah County Jobs Act also provides $500,000 a year for riverfront development.
“Our riverfront has so much potential,” said Ford. “We just need to have the resources to make the vision become a reality. The act will provide a steady source of revenue to our riverfront development, and more riverfront development means more jobs.”
Craig Ford represents Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives, where he also served as House Minority Leader from 2011-2016.