Athens City Council on Monday was asked not to put the Pilgrim's Pride park project ahead of moving and reopening Jimmy Gill Park.
Athens resident David Malone, who lives in the district served by the park, told council members they were “slapping District 3 and the black community in the face” if they put a higher priority on Pilgrim's Pride.
Jimmy Gill Park, named for the District 3 councilman who lost his battle with cancer in March 2016, had to be moved when Toyota Boshoku announced it would build a manufacturing facility on West Sanderfer Road. As part of the project agreement, Toyota Boshoku (now known as Toyota Boshoku AKI USA LLC) gave $300,000 to the city to help defray costs associated with moving the park.
The city purchased the former Woodland Golf Course for $1 million and plans to put the park where the former clubhouse once stood.
Malone said since Gill isn't alive to speak about the park, he would speak for him “as long as I'm able.”
“It only takes four honest good men to do the right thing,” Malone told the council.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks, who was a close friend of Gill's, told Malone the Pilgrim's Pride park would not take precedence over Jimmy Gill Park. He added a preliminary outline of Jimmy Gill Park had already been completed, and he planned to reconvene a committee dedicated to seeing the park through to completion.
Also Monday, the council amended the current fiscal year budget to provide a $2,500 appropriation to the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce for the upcoming Christmas Open House, set for Nov. 22-23 in downtown Athens. It also appropriated $4,200 to Holiday Enlightenment to install holiday lighting at City Hall.
Finally, Council President Harold Wales asked what the city could do about the CSX crossing on Elm Street, which he described as like “driving over a rough-plowed field.”
Public Works Director James Rich told Wales he would contact CSX about making repairs to the crossing. Neither the city nor the state can repair a rail crossing unless authorized by the rail company.
In other business Monday, the council:
• Set a public hearing for Jan. 13 to review a request by Mark Wilson, Johnnie H. Wilson, Fred J. Wilson, Ollye M. Ward and Melinda Patterson to rezone property from single-family high-density residential district to general business district;
• Granted a special-use permit to Verizon Wireless to modify equipment at 14022 Alabama 251; and
• Designated Friday, Nov. 29, as an additional holiday for city employees. “We know some of the employees had rather work, but we're going to go ahead and make it possible for them to be off,” Wales said.