The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 23, 2014

Half-million gamble not paying off

The News Courier

— The razing of the former Fred’s discount store last week is just another chapter in the story about the Limestone County Commission’s purchase of a vacant shopping center for more than half a million dollars.

The commission bought the property with the intent of using the space for the Community Corrections Program. The plans were to renovate Fred’s to make office space for the program.

But, lo and behold, the bids came in above the commission’s estimates and that plan was scrapped.

It’s been more than a year since then and there are still no plans on what to do with the seven acres of land on North Jefferson Street.

The commission changed course and bought the former Better Living building on South Jefferson Street to permanently house the court programs. It is also serving as a temporary home for the courts while the courthouse is being renovated.

Meanwhile, the county is still stuck with a $525,000 piece of property that is a shell of a shopping center with a couple buildings and the old Foodland grocery store.

Maybe someone will buy the land and develop it.

Maybe someone will renovate the old Foodland store and put another supermarket there.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Unfortunately, in this age of tight budgets, we can’t afford maybes or empty shopping centers.

It was a half-a-million dollar gamble two years ago and the taxpayers are left still holding the bag.

And there’s no discounting that.