“We want you here,” he said. “We want you to be a partner.”
Monday, the city council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing an agreement between the city and the school board to jointly purchase the CenturyLink building.
School officials made the council aware that the board of education was interested in joint ownership of the facility, but Superintendent Michael Barber said city officials only offered the board a long-term lease agreement.
The board voted last month to purchase the former Department of Human Resources building off Dr. John Haynes Drive instead, after the St. Clair County Commission agreed to sell the building to the board for $125,000.
Councilman Jay Jenkins, City Manager Patrick Draper and City Attorney John Rea also attended Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
“We understand the board’s hesitation,” Funderburg said.
He said in the long run, the CenturyLink building is better situated for the board.
Draper said the city would have 75 percent ownership, while the Board of Education would have 25 percent ownership.
He said the board of education central office would occupy one side of the second floor of the facility, above a new library.
Draper said the city plans to replace the roof and install new heating and air units.
School board members emphasized Tuesday that this was the first time the city officially offered the board of education joint ownership of the CenturyLink building.
Draper said the city wants 70 acres adjacent to Interstate 20, which includes the former DHR building, developed commercially.
He said if the school board bought the DHR building, it could possibly hamper the development of the property in years to come.
“Trying to negotiate a cost of buying you out could be a deal breaker,” Draper said.
He said city officials thought about moving the city library into the former DHR building, but decided not to because the property was more suited for commercial development.
Draper said not only would the commercial development of the property south of I-20 benefit the city, but also the BOE through additional sales tax revenues.
Draper told the board that his cost estimates for the CenturyLink building and renovation and upgrade costs to the facility were conservative, but one board member expressed concern about cost overruns associated with such a large facility.
“Our budget is limited on what we can do,” board member Jeff Jones said. “This is a big building, which means estimates could vary more. Could there be a cap? We don’t have much leeway. … No way can the (school) system take question marks.”
Rea said a cap associated with the upfront cost of the CenturyLink building was a reasonable request that the council could consider.
Rea also pointed out there is a disagreement between the city and the St. Clair County Commission as to whether the DHR property was considered a part of an earlier agreement between the two entities, and whether the city has shared interest in that property.
Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said the DHR property is a separate parcel that was not a part of an agreement to secure $4 million to complete the construction of St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital on Veterans Parkway.
The commission secured the loan and the city agreed to pay $100,000 or half the interest on the interest-only loan, whichever was greater, in return to have an equal interest in the hospital property, or property owned by the St. Clair County Healthcare Authority.
Funderburg said a partnership between the city and the BOE is not new and a partnership can work.
He pointed to the Pell City Center, which was a joint venture and a facility shared by the city and the school system. He said the school board will not have to move its offices, and the CenturyLink building would be fully utilized.
“We want to make you an owner, not a leaser,” Funderburg said.
He said the resolution that was unanimously approved by the council Monday is a formal request for a partnership.
Barber told city officials Tuesday that the school board needs more time to “digest the information provided by the city.”
He also said the school board had already offically voted to buy the former DHR building.
The county commission is poised to approve the final sale of the former DHR building, if the city does not assume the county’s $4 million interest-only loan.
Batemon told city officials if the city agreed to take over the loan by Oct. 21, the city would have sole authority or ownership of the former hospital property, professional building, as well as the DHR building.
Batemon said otherwise, the commission would direct the county attorney at the commission’s Oct. 22 meeting to proceed with the closing of the former DHR building to the Pell City Board of Education.
Contact David Atchison at firstname.lastname@example.org