Social Circle to help fund General Mills' water

SOCIAL CIRCLE - Social Circle has agreed to put $630,000 toward a $2.2 million federal grant that will be used to fund the extension of water and sewer lines to the General Mills distribution center now under construction on Hightower Road.

The City Council approved the resolution during its monthly meeting Tuesday to pay its portion - 20 percent - of the grant from the federal Economic Development Administration.

"We're asking for $1.6 million to help with water and sewer infrastructure," Mayor Jim Burgess said.

He added that U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Marietta, has supported the city's efforts to receive the federal money and helped boost the grant request by $600,000.

The $2.2 million grant will be used to construct utilities to the 1.5 million-square-foot distribution center that will distribute General Mills products throughout the country. The center is expected to initially bring 120 new jobs to the area, Burgess said.

City Manager Doug White said he expects to hear within 30 to 45 days whether the city received the grant. At that time, he said, the city will put the infrastructure project out to bid with an eye to begin work by January. He said General Mills plans to open its doors in May.

The facility will be one of the largest in the country built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. LEED is an internationally recognized certification system that measures how well a building or community performs on energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

The four-county, mixed-use park Stanton Springs, located partially in Newton County, was under consideration for the distribution plant, but the property in Social Circle was ultimately given the nod, in part, because of its proximity to the CSX rail line.

This will be the second large distribution center to locate in Social Circle in less than five years. In 2006, Solo Cup opened a 1.3-million-square-foot distribution center on East Hightower Road.

In other news, the Social Circle City Council agreed to hire the law firm of Gray & Pannell LLP to serve as bond counsel for water and sewer work to be done at the General Mills location. In response to a request for proposals, the Savannah-based firm agreed to a contract of $24,000 plus $2,500 in expenses for up to an $8 million bond issuance and a 3 percent fee for any amount of $8 million.

Gray & Pannell's bid came in lower than those of the four other firms that responded to the RFP, which were Troutman Sanders LLP; King & Spalding; Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP; and Alston & Bird LLP.