City Council votes 3-2 to remove IDB land from airport plan
by Emily McLain
Feb 05, 2014 | 1039 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SYLACAUGA – The City Council voted 3-2 at a meeting Wednesday to remove acreage owned by the Industrial Development Board from a federal expansion plan for the municipal airport.

Councilmen Joe Hogan and Tom Roberts cast the dissenting votes.

“Regardless of what the intentions were when the property was given to the IDB by the city years ago, and this council had nothing to do with that, the way I see it now is the IDB owns the property, so I don’t see any other way to remove the title from the IDB’s possession, with the exception of condemnation, and that’s something I’m not willing to do,” Council President Rocky Lucas said after the meeting

The property in question, which totals roughly 40 acres near the airport off U.S. 280, was included in an Airport Layout Plan used by the Federal Aviation Administration to chart future airport expansions. The city discovered in late 2012, though, that the land was actually deeded to IDB in 1997.

FAA offered to purchase at least 10 acres from IDB and asked the city to decide by Feb. 5 whether it would remove the land from the Airport Layout Plan or move forward with the purchase. However, IDB maintained from the start that it was not interested in selling.

“You have studied this thing to death, but the bottom line is nobody in our group wants to sell that land…,” IDB chairman Dalbert Marsh told councilmen at a work session Monday, citing a $1.4 million speculative building near the property as its reason for keeping the land. “It is the only land the city of Sylacauga owns that can be developed right now for industrial purposes.”

During discussion of this issue Monday, Hogan proposed IDB sell the land to FAA and use the funds to purchase property more suitable for industrial use. Roberts expressed a similar sentiment.

Following the split vote Wednesday, Hogan said he doesn’t “know what is going to happen down the road for the airport or IDB, but my plan was to have options available in the future to both boards. In voting ‘no,’ I want to make perfectly clear I’m supporting the city on both ends, not choosing sides, as sometimes this comes across.”

The vote decides an issue that has been debated for more than a year. The next step is for the city to determine the costs of revising the Airport Layout Plan. Lucas said some liability should lie on Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon, the engineering firm that designed the plan.

In other business, the council:

O Renewed a grant agreement for elderly meal services with East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission.

O Approved close-out documentation for a construction grant for Sylaward Trail. The Cyclists of Greater Sylacauga group has agreed to perform trail maintenance.

O Authorized Airport Board chairman Tommy Dobson to execute a $4,900 contract for weather observation services used by FAA.

O Accepted $10,000 from the County Commission for the Animal Rescue Foundation, and accepted $20,000 from the commission for senior citizen nutrition services.

O Approved a job description for part-time firefighters.

O Approved $500 each for the Miss Sylacauga and Miss Marble Valley scholarship funds.

O Authorized a $1,000 refund to Winston Spidell for a cash bond.

O Approved expenses for various staff training conferences.

O Authorized payments of about $44,000 for accounts payable invoices in January.

O Heard Mayor Doug Murphree recognize individuals and groups involved in rescue efforts during the Jan. 28 snowstorm.

O Heard Police Chief Chris Carden recognize officers for raising more than $2,500 for Project Lifesaver through a facial hair fundraiser.

O Heard citizen Mike Landers commend the council for deciding the IDB-airport land issue. “I think you came to the right conclusion,” he said.

O Heard citizen Mark Ledbetter thank Murphree for his help organizing rescue and sheltering efforts during last week’s snow days.

The next regular council meeting is Jan. 18.

Contact Emily McLain at emclain@dailyhome.com.