MOULTON — The lease on 516.4 acres at the former Courtland airbase that helps fund Lawrence County industrial recruitment and airport operations is up for a renewal, and a Leighton farmer hopes to win bidding again for use of the land.
Tony Gargis Sr., 65, was the winning bidder five years ago when he agreed to pay $226 per acre per year for the large tract. He said he pays the Lawrence County Industrial Development Board about $116,000 each November to farm the acreage. The IDB and Lawrence County Commission split the annual proceeds.
The IDB is accepting sealed bids until noon Nov. 12 to lease the site on a 5-year contract.
“I’ve never bid on something that I didn’t win it,” said Gargis, a Colbert County cotton and corn farmer. “I’ve been happy with the lease. I expect it will go for more than what I’m paying now.”
Leaders at the Lawrence County Commission and IDB are hoping Gargis is correct.
IDB President and CEO Tabathia Pace said the half of the money derived from the lease contract is vital to her department’s budget. “Our overall budget is about $200,000,” she said. “This farm money and TVA in-lieu-of-tax money are where we get our total budget from.”
Heather Dyar, Lawrence County administrator, said the commission’s portion of the farm lease money goes to funding the Courtland Air Park.
“The money goes into the airport fund and is used for expenses associated with operations of the airport,” Dyar said. “It's important because that is the only source of revenue we have for the airport fund. Without it, we could not efficiently operate the airport.”
Pace said interested bidders can receive a package of information on the bidding process at the IDB office at 12001 Alabama 157 in Moulton.
Gargis said he’s been yielding about 2.5 bales of cotton per acre this year on the airbase land.
He said he anticipates about 10 farmers to be in the bidding war this year.
“I wish them luck. They’ll need it,” he said.