By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved two requests to apply for additional funding for their collaborative effort with Kelly Products to construct a farmers market in Morgan County, located at 2620 Eatonton Hwy on July 15. Chairman Andy Ainslie reviewed a letter he wrote to the District 10 State Transportation Board requesting economic funds from the Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants (LMIG) Program. Michael Lamar, the county manager, reviewed his request to have the county attorney, Christian Henry, draft a letter and eligibility checklist to submit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a $80,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant. “On behalf of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners, I am respectfully requesting LMIG funding for an exciting economic development project here in our community.

This joint venture is a public-private partnership between Morgan County and Keith Kelly, President and CEO of Kelly Products. The project… will begin with a specialty grocery concept store, a cafe and a farmers market,” explained Ainslie. Ainslie’s letter explained the BOC’s financial responsibility for the construction of the farmer’s market, which Kelly Products will operate, as well as the BOC’s commitment to meet the “necessary Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) mandated road improvements,” which will require the widening of a section of Highway 441 for the addition of a left-turn lane and a departure lane. The BOC has already submitted plans for the road improvements to the GDOT designed by Georgia Civil.

According to Todd Peaster, Georgia Civil Engineer and Chief Executive Officer, the estimated size, scope and cost for the two above-mentioned road improvements will cost a total of $250,000. The road work would be for Highway 441, beginning at the corner of 2500 Eatonton Highway, and ending at midpoint of 2620 Eatonton Highway. Ainslie pointed out that the farmer’s market is expected to generate between 50 and 55 new jobs in Morgan County. The BOC also approved the request from Lamar to have the County attorney, Christian Henry, draft a letter to the USDA. Lamar went over three pertinent questions that need to be submitted to the USDA to ensure the county is in line with all federal guidelines the project must meet in order to receive the $80,000 USDA grant that will be used to construct the farmer’s market. Those three questions are: Is it permissible for the County to “give a lien” on two acres for the Farmers Market? Is it permissible for the County to lease the Farmers Market to a third party? And, is it permissible for the Farmers Market to be physically located in the center of a larger project owned and operated by a third party? “We want to be extra certain we meet all the necessary requirements for this grant,” said Lamar. “It’s first come, first serve. So the quicker we jump on this, the better.” The goal, according to Ainslie, is to have the Farmer’s Market open by May 2015.