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Published 12:00 am Friday, December 7, 2001

Messenger Publisher

A $400,000 grant approved on Tuesday will become the impetus in securing funds to rehabilitate nearly nine miles of railroad track in Pike County and help keep a peanut shelling plant operating in Goshen.

The Community Development Block Grant, which was approved by the governor, was sought on behalf of the Pike County Commission and will be used as matching funds as the commission seeks nearly $1.6 million to repair the tracks between Troy and Goshen.

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"Pending this grant, we’re almost assured to get the other grants," said Karen Berry, chairman of the commission. "Now, we can use this as an impetus to seek those grants."

The funds will be used to rehabilitate approximately nine miles of rail between the City of Troy and the Town of Goshen, where Anderson Peanuts operates. The rail service was discontinued in the fall of 2001. Representatives of Anderson Peanuts and the Pike County Chamber of Commerce sought help from the commission in repairing the tracks, citing the potential loss of jobs.

Berry said while she had not received "anything in writing" from Anderson Peanuts representatives, she did believe resolving the rail service issue would be the key issue needed to keep the plant operating.

"They just couldn’t afford to continue running those trucks" to haul peanuts, Berry said.

Anderson Peanuts employees about 75 local residents and another 302 people throughout the state. The rail service is used to transport shelled peanuts to major peanut butter and candy manufacturers throughout the Southeast, according to state Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne. "Getting rail service back is crucial for them to keep that company down there. It’s really important for the people of Pike County," he said.

Both Mitchell and Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, were instrumental in seeking the grant, which was approved by Gov. Don Siegelman on Tuesday.

"We’re pleased with it," Boothe said, adding that the lawmakers appreciated the governor’s approval of these funds.

Both lawmakers stressed that the rehabilitation of the railroad tracks is key to economic development in Pike County and the state.