Helena seeks approval for new road built by U.S. Steel Corporation

HELENA &8212; The city of Helena is seeking validation in civil court of a plan to use sales taxes to pay United States Steel Corporation for the construction of a roadway connecting county highways 17, 52 and 91.

Mayor Sonny Penhale said the road could ease congestion.

&8220;It opens up the community in that area and hopefully will eliminate traffic some by creating a shortcut for those going to Montevallo,&8221; Penhale said.

The road could connect with the proposed &8220;Helena Bypass&8221; from 261 to 52 and create a loop around the city.

The thoroughfare would begin at County Road 52, intersect County Road 91 and pass through the new Hillsboro community to connect with County Road 17.

City officials propose paying for the project by allowing U.S. Steel to claim 50 percent of all sales tax revenue from retail businesses located on the 2,000-acre parcel of land bordering the roadway. There would also be a housing fee of $1,000 per single-family unit and $200 per multi-family unit paid by the developer of any new property built.

Attorney Benjamin Spratling filed an action in civil court to get approval of the plan.

&8220;That is how you get a proceeding before the court,&8221; Spratling said. &8220;The city technically has to sue its taxpayers in order to get before a judge, but it allows us to validate the bonds and ensure that we have followed proper procedure.&8221;

Spratling said getting a warrant on bond issues validated is a more direct and simple way to create economic development for a city, which is what Helena is attempting to do.

The site for a new Helena Middle School is already underway, and plans are in the making for retail businesses along the road.

&8220;There are 100 acres of retail land at the intersection of 52 and the new road,&8221; said Tom Howard, general manager for U.S.S. Real Estate in Alabama. &8220;Assuming the Helena Bypass gets constructed, we believe there is a significant amount of retail potential there.&8221;

Howard said he anticipates seeing banks, restaurants and small retail stores pop up in the area. Any of those businesses would generate revenue to help the city repay its bond.

The bond warrant would be issued for a maximum of $9.9 million and would be repaid over the course of 25 years, beginning July 15, or until the amount is paid in full. Residents of Helena are asked to bring any concerns or complaints against the plan to a hearing at 10 a.m. on July 9 at the Shelby County Courthouse.