Conflicting opinions from members of the Athens City Council resulted in a rare split vote during Monday's meeting.
The resolution in question concerned purchasing the building owned by the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority on South Jefferson Street, at the intersection of West Forrest Street.
Last summer, LCWSA made the decision to vacate the building and move all operations to its location on U.S. 72 at Athens' western border beginning June 1, 2020.
“Back in the day, customer service was done here (at the U.S. 72 building), then they bought the Jefferson Street location and did that there,” LCWSA Chief Executive Officer Daryl Williamson told The News Courier at the time. “It's hard to get that area COVID-ready, and we've got a three-story building here that literally four people inhabit.”
Williamson said the LCWSA purchased the Jefferson Street location around 2005. The building sits just down the road from the Athens Utilities customer service location.
A resolution to purchase the building from the LCWSA was introduced at a previous City Council meeting, but the actual vote was not held until Monday. The cost would have been $784,000.
Council members Chris Seibert and Frank Travis voted in favor of purchasing the property, while Dana Henry and Wayne Harper voted against.
Harper and Mayor Ronnie Marks each mentioned during the meeting that Councilman Harold Wales was unable to attend due to shoulder surgery.
Harper said votes have to have three yeas before they are passed by the Council, so for now, the issue dies. It can be brought back before the group at a later date.
Seibert told the audience before the vote that he wanted to make his reasoning known as to why he was going to vote yes on the resolution. He said purchasing the property would be cheaper than the current construction costs of building a similar structure, and though the city would not have an immediate use for the property, it would likely find one, given the amount of projected growth in the future.
“It's in the primary corridor into our city,” he said. “It's contiguous to property we already own. It's almost an entire city block. We're the fastest-growing city in the state. We are going to have a need. We are going to be expanding. I am not an advocate of going out and buying random pieces of property, but it would allow us to grow as a city.”
Seibert said the property was being offered for $6-$7 per square foot.
Harper said he chose to vote against the resolution because the city did not have an immediate use for the building.