Commission to deed former hospital to Pell City
by Will Heath
ASHVILLE — The St. Clair County Commission approved a resolution Tuesday that will deed the former hospital to Pell City.

The commission unanimously approved the measure, in which Pell City will take full ownership of the former hospital property. The two entities jointly purchased the property for $4 million as part of the agreement to build the new St. Vincent’s St. Clair near Interstate 20. They have both made interest-only payments since then.

Per the agreement, Pell City will take over the $4 million note for the property, along with the former headquarters of the county’s Department of Human Resources, which burned in August 2009. Mayor Joe Funderburg said the city is in discussion with a company that would bring a wellness center to the location.

“We feel this is an opportunity, not only for the commission, but for the city, because we do have some opportunities for some things in the works,” Funderburg said. “We have a commitment, or almost have, from some people who are willing to come in and work with us on a project; specifically, this has to do with … what was presented as a wellness center. We’re also looking at a possibility of a library being relocated to the DHR building.”

As part of the agreement, the city will also turn over the current headquarters for the Chamber of Commerce to the county sheriff’s department. Sheriff Terry Surles said the building will provide space for his investigations department.

City Manager Patrick Draper said the property would be the first step in a larger plan.

“It’s something that would absolutely serve the entire county, not just Pell City,” Draper said. “As we look at this entire property – not just what the county currently owns, but from west of 231, all the way to Comer Avenue — we have envisioned a master plan for the entire setup.

“A municipal complex in the middle, future commercial on the west side, and other private property owners on the east side, talking about things like office parks and that kind of thing.

“We do feel like we have somewhat of a commitment from these outside agencies. We’re excited about it, and we’re ready to move forward with it as fast as we can.”

Commissioners said they were interested in removing the $4 million owed for the property from the county’s debt limit.

“That property is in the municipality of Pell City,” Commissioner Paul Manning said. “I’m for going ahead with it, to let them be in control of it.

“I don’t see any further use for it, and if the sheriff doesn’t see any need for it, I think we need to go ahead and dispose of it.”

Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said the property will increase in value for the county once it is developed.

“It actually may increase our debt limit if the city takes it and builds a library out of it,” Batemon said. “It becomes more valuable to us and to (Pell City).”

Contact Will Heath at wheath@thestclairtimes.com.

© 2012