“I want to put this to bed,” said Councilwoman Dot Wood. “We do not want to purchase the hospital property.”
Wood made a motion that the city never purchase the former hospital property, and her motion was seconded by Councilman Terry Templin.
Wood, Templin and Council President James McGowan voted in favor of the motion, and Council members Jay Jenkins and Sharon Thomas voted against the motion.
Monday night’s vote opens the door for the Pell City Board of Education to move forward with the purchase of the former DHR building from the St. Clair County Commission.
The County Commission agreed to sale the DHR building to the Board of Education for $125,000, on condition that the city did not assume an interest-only $4 million loan that was secured to complete the construction of the new St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital.
On the condition of paying $100,000 or half the interest of the $4 million loan, the city has half interest in the former hospital property.
City officials have said the intent at the time of the agreement included the former DHR building, but St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said the DHR building was never a part of the agreement.
“We had to have closure,” Wood said after the 3-2 vote by the council. “This should close it for this administration.”
She said the city could not afford the additional debt to secure the former hospital property.
“You don’t go into this kind of debt,” Wood said. “We would have to change some our projects, and we aren’t going to do that.”
The city has approved to borrow an additional $3.5 million, which would provide funds to purchase the CenturyLink building for a new home for the public library, and build a new municipal swimming pool, as well as other recreation and park department projects.
Wood’s motion came after Jenkins made a motion to make an offer to the St. Clair County Commission to purchase the former hospital property.
Jenkins motion died for a lack of a second to his motion.
“That was the biggest mistake we ever made,” Jenkins said after the council meeting. “It shows no foresight for the future of this city.”
Jenkins said he compared Monday night’s vote to the time the city voted in favor to bore underneath Interstate 20 so property North of Interstate 20 could be development. He said Wal-Mart now sits on that land, providing 30 percent of the sales tax revenue for the city.
Jenkins said people at the time thought the council was crazy but look now at the development.
“This shows no foresight, whatsoever, in my opinion,” Jenkins said.
McGowan told Jenkins he didn’t like his remarks.
“The city doesn’t have to buy it, a developer can buy it,” McGowan said, adding that he did not think the city could afford the additional debt. “I don’t want to put the city in a bind. I want to be able for us to pay our bills.”
Mayor Joe Funderburg sided with Jenkins saying the property is inside the city limits of Pell City, and the city needs to have control with what is done with the property.
“I agree that Pell City doesn’t need to be in the real-estate business,” Funderburg said, but he added that the city is already paying $100,000 a year on the $4 million loan, and with the proposal offered, the city would have actually lowered its annual payment to $35,000, saving $65,000 a year. The city would also have an equal say as to how the property is developed.
Funderburg said the city’s attempt to work out an agreement with the County Commission to have more control of the former hospital property had nothing to do with the Board of Education wanting to purchase the former DHR facility.
“This has never been about the Board of Education,” Funderburg said. “I wish them well.”
He also thought the vote was a mistake.
“I don’t think this is a good move for the city,” Funderburg said.
Jenkins made his initial motion after the council went into executive session and after hearing from Jason Roberts, the project manager for the St. Clair County Economic Development Council.
In accordance with the initial proposal, the city would have borrowed an additional $1.5 million to pay on the interest-only $4 million loan, leaving a balance of $2.5 million. The city and county would equally share the interest remaining on the remaining $2.5 million loan, until the property sold.
The city would then pay off the debt it received from the sale of the property.
The city would also have transferred the commercial property that houses the Greater Pell City Chamber of Commerce Office to the County Commission.
Before the council went into executive session to discuss the possible purchase of the former hospital property, Roberts told the council that the hospital property was the next best commercial tract of land, next to the property directly North, across I-20, behind Wal-Mart.
He told the council the former hospital property is ideal for a large retail development.
Some city officials say they want to preserve the property for commercial development, while other officials say nothing has changed, and the property can still be developed commercially.
At Monday night’s meeting, the Council also authorized the City Manager to negotiate a contract with Goodgame Company to oversee the construction of the proposed $2 million pool and with the YMCA to run pool operations when the construction of the facility is completed.
In other matters, the council:
O Approved to accept the bid in the amount of $29,880 submitted by Mackey Pile Driving & Construction for the construction of the observation platform in the marsh area of Lakeside Park. The Logan Martin Lake Protection Association has agreed to reimburse the city for the construction project.
O Approved to re-solicit bids for police cars.
O Approved the low bid in the amount of $1,419 submitted by Awards to Remember for fall trophies for the Parks and Recreation Department.
O Approved a resolution to vacate a 20-foot wide sewer and drainage easement on the Dollar General property in Cropwell.
O Approved to add Vaughan Lane to the city’s repaving project list. The $157,000 to pay for the paving will come out of the city’s reserve.
O Presented a proclamation to the Pell City Board of Education, proclaiming the week, Nov. 4-8, as “Alabama College Application Week.”
O Approved to solicit bids to install new flooring for the upstairs office areas of City Hall.
Contact David Atchison at firstname.lastname@example.org