Walker County has renegotiated its lease with HATponics Inc., a company in Rossville that grows catfish and vegetables using aquaponics.

The original agreement, a 99-year lease at one dollar per year, did not meet state requirements, said Commissioner Shannon Whitfield Thursday, Sept. 14, during his regular weekly meeting in LaFayette.

HATponics is located on a three acres at the old Rossville Middle School track and field area.

Aquaponics refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

"It (the lease) did not meet the statutory requirements to be a legal lease between a government entity and a private entity," Whitfield said. "You cannot enter into lease agreements with a private entity for 99 years.

"That was not adequate for the value of the land to be utilized, so we re-negotiated that for $600 per month," Whitfield said.

The company is in the process of having the property appraised as well as an environmental assessment on the land.

"Hopefully, between now and the end of the year, they make an offer to purchase that property," Whitfield said, noting that the lease covers September through December.

If HATponics Inc. does not purchase the property, a new lease must be negotiated, he said.

"This lease does state that if they do come to a purchase arrangement, ... $400 of the monthly amount will be applied toward the purchase price of that," Whitfield said. "If they do not come to some sort of resolution or agreement to purchase between now and the end of the year, they will forfeit that and all $600 (per month) will remain with the county."

Whitfield said the September payment has already been paid by the company.

Josh O'Bryant is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He can be reached at the Walker County Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at jobryant@npco.com.