‘Ball and chain on the city’

Northeast Alabama Agribusiness Center

The Rainsville City Council on Monday approved to cosign on a line of credit for the Northeast Alabama Agribusiness Center.

Eric Samples, president of the Public Building Authority Board, addressed the council during Monday night’s workshop to request the city’s help in applying for a $15,000 credit line to supplement the center during slower times of the year.

Samples said like any business, the center experiences “highs and lows.”

“When we have a slow time, if we need to draw on that we can,” Samples said. “We have one show in December, two shows in January and February is full, but there’s just slow times sometimes.”

The center, located on 43.5 acres, which holds a variety of events annually, is equipped with an enclosed and climate-controlled arena, meeting facilities, livestock stables, recreational vehicle parking and 2-acre lake, according to nealagribusinesscenter.com.

While the center is supposed to sustain itself through its bookings, it does require annual subsidizing from the city of Rainsville, according to Councilman Marshall Stiefel.

Stiefel stated if the center’s loan defaults, the city will be responsible for the payments.

“We appreciate what [the city does,]” Samples said. “We just need [a line of credit] to conduct normal business.

I have one myself, and I think most businesses do. To run it like you all have asked, this is what I need, and that’s why I’m standing before you.”

Stiefel said in comments to the Times-Journal on Monday, the city spends $360,000 annually on subsidizing the center, and the facility is “an albatross around the city’s neck.”

“The bottom line is, let’s just be frank about it, the agri-center is a ball and chain on the city in my opinion,” Stiefel said in the workshop Monday.

Samples repeatedly thanked the council for their help and understanding of the situation.

“The agribusiness center was never built to make money,” Samples said. “It was built for revenue.”

Samples said visitors that come into the city for the events spend money on food, gas and lodging, thus bringing tax revenue to the community.

“You’re just playing the hand you were dealt,” Stiefel said, referring to Samples appointment to the voluntary board at the center. “In my opinion, you were dealt a bad hand.”

Samples said the center has large events booked for 2019 but hopes to add more throughout the year.

“We’ve actually got the [United States Team Roping Championships] coming in June,” Samples said. “That’s really big for the city of Rainsville, and we’ll have another one probably in August.”

Councilman Rickey Byrum said the agreement is good for the city, since the center brings many visitors to stay and eat in the city limits.

“The more events you bring to town, you’re going to see more people,” Byrum said. “The more events you create, the more revenue it creates for the city.”

The council voted and approved for the city of Rainsville to cosign for a line of credit for the center.

The next meeting will be held Dec. 17 in the council chambers. The workshop begins at 4:15 p.m. and the meeting at 5 p.m.

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