City Council and ICA to give progress reports on East Highland plans
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – The City Council and I Can Achieve Ministries reached a temporary agreement about the former East Highland School building during a council work session Monday night.

In the interest of securing the heavily vandalized property, the council determined it will move forward with plans to demolish the building. These plans include getting a cost estimate and searching for potential financing and grant options.

However, the council also agreed to let ICA progress on its own plans to secure the building, possibly by putting up a high fence, during that same time frame. Councilmen said ICA, which has been in talks with the city for more than a year about occupying the dilapidated building to start a number of youth and senior programs, has 30 days to present a proposal for securing the property, and during that 30 days, the organization is also expected to make significant progress on a legitimate business plan, which the council asked for at its last work session, for how it will operate the intended programs.

Erroll Brantley, the new pastor of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church and also a new ICA board member, had initially asked the council for a five-year lease to the building and a 90-day extension on creating a business plan since he only recently became involved with the project.

Council President Rocky Lucas said the issue has been going on much longer than the time Brantley has been involved, and in that time, no business plan has been presented. ICA does not currently operate any programs, but has plans to start soon out of the St. Paul church building, Brantley said. Councilman Shannon Darby said he is not biased toward either side, but questioned why ICA didn’t have more of a plan up to this point.

“I’m really, really fed up with this whole scenario, but it’s not about me and it’s not about y’all,” Darby said. “It’s about how the community can come together to see this project either go to the next level or do something to make something else happen.”

Eventually, both sides agreed the 30-day time limit was fair. The City Council and ICA are to present progress reports on their efforts at the March 18 council work session, with additional 30-day progress updates as the project continues.

Also at the work session, the council discussed maintenance issues at the Comer Arts Museum. Museum staff has compiled a list of problems, including a leaking roof and sky light, wet hardwood floors, underground water issues and outdoor lighting. Councilman Joe Hogan is to check back with the museum on which of these issues is a priority to be fixed.

Also discussed was a funding request from the Miss Teen Alabama pageant. Pageant organizers have asked the city to provide roughly $3,200 toward the pageant, more than $1,000 more than previous years. Mayor Doug Murphree said he would also like to secure a five-year contract with the pageant for it to return to Sylacauga.

“We’ve got to make a decision on what it is worth to get all these people in here filling up the hotels,” he said.

Councilmen agreed the pageant, set for March 2-3 at Sylacauga High School, brings in a lot of revenue to the city and is worth the extra requested money for this year.

The council also discussed airport lighting issues, January financials and gave board reports from various city board meetings. It meets tonight at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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