Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TOP STORY >> Council won’t buy property

Leader staff writer

There’s an old rock home on a small lot at 101 Lakeshore Drive which Tommy Dupree wants the city to buy so the Reed’s Bridge Historical Society can convert it to a visitors and interpretive center for the Civil War battlefield.

Over the past 10 years, the city has helped expand the battlefield site by purchasing more than $215,000 worth of property for the society, but this purchase fell on deaf ears last Wednesday.

Dupree asked the council to fund the $42,000 purchase, but no alderman made a motion and the request died. It was the third time in about four months that Dupree has approached the council about this property.

“The house is solid and in good shape,” Dupree told the council.

He said he walked through the home with Fire Chief John Vanderhoof, who restores old homes, and they thought the building could be converted to a visitor’s center for about $40,000 to $45,000.

“The floors are good and solid and so are the trusses. It won’t take a lot to fix it up. Most of the repair and conversion work would be self-help,” Dupree said.

“We’ve got the lumber and the manpower and can get some funding and grants for the work, but there’s just no money out there for acquisition of property,” he added.

“This will be about the only way we’ll be able to have a center on the site, and it would make development of the area go faster,” Dupree said.

But Alderman Bob Stroud disagreed, saying the home was termite infested, and offered to walk through the property with Dupree to show him the problems.

“For $42,000, it isn’t going to happen. I want you to go forward, but not with this,” the alderman said.

Alderman Terry Sansing also had problems spending the money.

“Times are tough. Tax income is slowing down and money is tight. We can find better use for these funds than buying this structure,” Sansing said, reminding Dupree that the council had been very “generous with city money on park purchases.”

“We’ve contributed about $215,000 over the past 10 years,” Sansing said. “And your group has done a good job at getting additional funding and help, but we just need to put this money to better use.”

The property owner originally wanted $56,000 for the property based on appraisals he had done. The city appraised the lot at $33,000, and former Mayor Tommy Swaim talked the owner down to $42,000.

In other council business:

The city council saluted Mayor Swaim for his 22.5 years of service and invited him back to Thursday’s meeting to receive his special retirement clock.

Aldermen shifted funds in the 2009 budget to allow for personnel changes planned by incoming Mayor Gary Fletcher.

Fletcher plans to make Jim Durham the city administrator and move Jay Whisker, the current city administrator, to the city engineer position, a post he previously held, and keep Chip McCulley as city planner.

To do so financially, the council shifted $100,000 it had budgeted for an unfilled economic development position to cover the expenses of bringing Durham on board, and reauthorized the city engineer’s position.

The city administrator will be paid $73,500, the city engineer’s salary will be $72,765 and the city planner will get $63,000.

The council approved the final plat of the Odell Residential Development, which will consist of four homes on 0.86 acres near North James Street.

Aldermen appointed Paul Payne to the Residential Housing Facilities Board. His term will expire in 2012.