Plans to renovate the shuttered Fred’s building in the former L&S Shopping Center on North Jefferson Street have been scrapped following a unanimous decision by the Limestone County Commission.
The commission received bids from three companies to refurbish the Fred’s building, but all three bids exceeded the $300,000 estimated budget. Steve Turner, Ben Harrison, Bill Latimer and Gary Daly voted 4-0 to reject the bids during the regular meeting Dec. 17.
“I thought we could do it a lot cheaper than that,” Latimer said. “I had no idea how much things had gone up. It does seem like when people bid on county projects, (the bids) tend to be a little higher than an individual bid – that’s just my concept.”
Finding a home
The next step is to find a permanent home for the county’s Community Corrections, Pardons and Paroles program, which is currently paying $2,500 per month to lease 16,000 square feet of office space in the Crutcher Shopping Center owned by Jackie Greenhaw.
The county declined to renew the lease, which expired June 30. Greenhaw, who wanted the county to sign a four-year lease, has offered to sell the current home of Community Corrections on South Jefferson Street to the county for $600,000, according to Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee.
Menefee has said that Community Corrections only needs 5,000 square feet to operate. The Fred’s building, which needs a roof replacement, has an estimated 8,500 square feet.
The commission is currently deciding whether to construct a Butler building, a prefabricated steel building designed for large commercial and municipal accounts, on the northwest or northeast outskirts of the L&S site.
I think we’re going to build a metal building,” Latimer said. “I expect that’s what we’re going to do because it seems to be the consensus of the commissioners, and it seems like it would be the best solution to our space problem.”
Complicating matters is the possibility of asbestos in the shingles and other portions of the Fred’s building. Asbestos removal involves strict regulations from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
“There’s concern about asbestos shingles and how to dispose of them,” Harrison said. “They might have to go in a Subtitle D Landfill, which is a lined landfill. The shingles and some of the vinyl could possibly have asbestos in them.
“You can probably build a new building for what the cost of the renovation would be, plus the cost of the roof. I would think we can build something that we needed, and hopefully not with a flat roof.”
The commission, which included Latimer, Daly, Bill Daws and Gerald Barksdale at the time, bought the L&S property for $525,000 from Dick and Billy Smith in May. Menefee, who opposed the purchase but only votes in case of a tie, said the property originally was priced at $800,000 by Athens developer Bill Ming.
The property includes Fred’s, the former L&S Foodland, a restaurant and two houses already approved for removal, a few businesses still in operation and an occupied house.
Based on interviews with all four commissioners and the chairman, there are no plans to re-bid the Fred’s project.
Daly said the commission would continue to keep its options open, including constructing a building.
“As quickly as possible I’d like to put out bids (for a Butler building), and I hope that they’re under budget,” Daly said. “We just need to cut back and build something with smaller footage … sometimes you can build a building cheaper than the cost of renovating a building.
“It might be a good, feasible alternative to renovating the Fred’s building, which we would have to appropriate more or scale back the bid. We’re looking at all options.”
During the Dec. 3 regular meeting, Menefee suggested the county purchase a ready-to-use building located between Madison and Jefferson streets to house Community Corrections and an 11-foot-by-7-foot EMA equipment trailer.
The building, which was previously reported to be owned by Jimmy Marshall, is owned by Luther “Johnny” Marshall. Menefee said the property was appraised for $600,000, and that Marshall has proposed $500,000 to sell the building.
The offer is between $500,000 and $525,000, and the building appraises at more than $600,000, according to Michael Lambert, Marshall’s attorney. The county also would have the choice to lease the building at a rate “comparable to the rent” at Crutcher, with a three-year option to buy Marshall’s property at the current asking price.
“It’s 12,000 square feet, and all we would need to do is add some cubicles and build some doors,” Menefee said. “I would still rather go to a different location (than build on the L&S property).
“I would like to clear off the L&S buildings and sell them as business property, turn it over to a realtor and put it back in the role of producing property taxes and sales taxes.”
However, the commissioners are wary about purchasing more property since the county already owns the seven-acre L&S property.
“I’m definitely not in favor of buying another building,” said Turner. “I would look at that if we could sell the L&S property, but I don’t like us having a $500,000-plus property and buying another $500,000-plus building.
“I just want to get to the bottom of it, and building at L&S would be cheaper than buying another building … if we put the new building off to the side, we would still have six-plus acres to do something else, or sell it.”
The commission will hold a work session at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, at the Washington Street annex. The next regular meeting is at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 7, at the Clinton Street annex.