The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 4, 2012

Divided County Commission moves forward on L&S project

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— After a lengthy discussion, the Limestone County Commission voted 3-1 in favor of moving forward with the renovation of the shuttered Fred’s building during its meeting Monday at the Clinton Street annex.

The building on North Jefferson Street is part of the seven-acre L&S Shopping Center property, which the commission purchased for $525,000.

District 3 Commissioner Bill Latimer introduced a motion to allow the letting of bids for renovating the old Fred’s building, and District 1 Commissioner Gary Daly seconded the motion.

“We thought it was a very good deal — where else can you buy seven acres in the city for that low?” Latimer said. “Why not use it? We don’t have to develop all of it right now and down the road, we may need more room.”

District 2 Commissioner Steve “Ned” Turner voted yes with Latimer and Daly, who both voted for the initial L&S purchase. Ben Harrison of District 3 cast the lone dissenting vote.

Back and forth

Harrison said during his campaign he spoke to more than 400 people, and only one person favored the L&S purchase. He said after further discussion, that person changed his mind. Menefee said he hasn’t heard any positive feedback regarding the purchase.

Daly and Latimer said they have not heard as much opposition to the purchase as Menefee and Harrison.

“I’ve had four people tell me it wasn’t a good idea, and three of them are sitting in this room,” Daly said in reference to people attending the meeting, which included three men and a woman who appeared irate.

The commission has proposed moving Community Corrections, Pardons and Paroles from Crutcher Shopping Center to L&S once the Fred’s building has been refurbished.

The Crutcher lease expired earlier this year, and the county is paying $2,500 a month until Community Corrections is moved to another site. The county declined to renew the lease.

Other options

Chairman Stanley Menefee, who votes only in case of a tie, opposed the initial L&S purchase and has sought to provide an alternative to renovating the Fred’s building.

Menefee suggested either buying the current site of Community Corrections, or purchasing a property between Madison and Jefferson streets owned by Jimmy Marshall.

The Marshall property currently houses a business still in operation. Latimer said the asking price is too high, and the county already spent money on a property to house Community Corrections and store an 11-foot-by-7-foot EMA equipment trailer.

Menefee said using L&S for commercial development to generate sales tax revenue would be more advantageous than using the site to house county programs.

Harrison added, “I can’t see it myself, renovating the Fred’s building. Going with the lowest cost, I see the lowest cost being the (Jimmy Marshall-owned) building.”

The county has an initial budget of $300,000 to renovate the L&S property, and $40,000 has already been spent. An estimated $115,000 is slated for roofing costs.

Underwood Associates of Decatur is the project architect. According to lead architect John Underwood, bids to work on the Fred’s building have been advertised for three consecutive weeks, as mandated by state law, and are scheduled to be opened Dec. 11.

Other business

In other business the commission:

• Approved resurfacing Elk River Mills Road from Alabama 99 to Baker Hill Road using Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP) funds;

• Approved resurfacing Nick Davis Road from Mooresville Road to Sanderson Road using ATRIP funds

• Agreed to contract with SOE Software Corp. to use its Clarity CONNECT Voter Education Web Portal Suite software for an up-front cost of $49,300;

• Renewed First National Bank as the county depositor;

• Hired Mary Renee Tucker as corrections officer and Rhett McNatt as patrol lieutenant, pending drug and alcohol screenings;

• Promoted Chris Shedd and Jimmy Gatlin II to equipment operator III in District 3;

• Accepted a donated 1997 Dodge Intrepid for use by the Council on Aging;

• Authorized closing the Limestone County Courthouse, and the Clinton Street and Washington Street annexes from noon to 1 p.m. Dec. 13, for the annual Christmas luncheon for employees

• Sanctioned The Pointe subdivision at Peninsula and Marina drives, north of Snake Road;

• Approved merit increases for Lynn B. Johnson, Alicia Sanders and Emily Sandlin; and

• Voted to send a resolution to the North Alabama legislative delegation to rescind state Senate Bill 189, which was passed four years ago and authorized the commission to develop ordinances to protect and conserve water.

The commission will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, for a work session at the Washington Street annex.