Sylacauga City Council considers land purchase proposal
by Emily McLain
SYLACAUGA – The City Council considered a proposal from two citizens to purchase city-owned property at Lake Louise during its work session Monday evening.

Bob and Carolyn Green submitted a cash offer of $185,000 for the purchase of 57.3 acres near Old Birmingham Highway. According to their proposal, which was read by Council President Rocky Lucas during the work session, the Greens estimate one 55-acre parcel, which includes Lake Louise, is valued at $110,000, and a second 2.3-acre parcel is valued at $25,200 for a total estimated worth of $135,200.

“The parcels are adjacent to our properties in the Lake Louise area,” the proposal stated. “The lake is currently infested with nutria rats and beavers, which has caused flooding and is destroying trees, vegetation and the general integrity of the surrounding area. The 55-area parcel of land is mostly unusable due to its classification as a wetland by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal classification greatly limits how the land can be used and how it must be managed. In making this offer, I fully understand these limitations and am prepared to adhere to all guidelines regarding wetlands.”

Lucas asked if the land is a liability for the city, and Mayor Doug Murphree said it is to an extent.

“We’ve had problems with people going in there, and we’ve posted ‘No Fishing’ signs,” he said. “Some of the neighbors have complained about people trespassing over there, and we’ve also had problems with beavers and flooding. We tried knocking down the dams, but they build them right back.”

The land, he said, was given to the city by Avondale Mills a number of years ago as a tax write-off. Murphree said he didn’t foresee the city ever developing the property, as it is low-lying and has a subdivision located near it, but he suggested that council members visit it before making a final decision about the sale. Murphree said the city would eventually have to spend money on the land to avoid series flooding issues, if they decide to keep it.

“My knee-jerk reaction is that we might could use (the money from the sale of the land) for something else that could get taken care of in the near future,” Lucas said.

Also during the work session, the council agreed to vote to today whether to grant the Board of Education’s request for $200,000 from its escrow fund to support summer maintenance projects, including $95,000 for a new band practice field, $45,000 for painting at city schools, and $60,000 for additional security equipment.

The escrow fund is designated for education purposes and currently holds $2.9 million in cash and investments. Councilmen were in agreement to grant the request, though Councilman Tom Roberts said a discussion needs to be had with the BOE about the location of the new band practice field, which is to be built across the street from the public swimming pool. Roberts said it was brought to his attention that the sound from band practices would disrupt swimmers’ ability to hear safety instruction from lifeguards. “That’s a serious issue with it being so loud that they could create a situation where they would have to shut down the pool,” he said. “I’m not sure how it would be addressed, but that is a concern.”

Murphree also said he would be talking with the BOE soon about possibly of using additional escrow funds for much-needed repairs at Legion Stadium, which he said Talladega County Schools have already agreed to support.

During the work session, the council also:

• Heard Murphree announce the city has applied for a $6.8 million grant from the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program to repave West Fourth Street, Main Avenue, Fort Williams Street, James Payton Boulevard, Oldfield Road and five other streets. If approved, the grant will require a $1.3 million match.

• Murphree also announced the Talladega County Emergency Management Agency will set up tents near the Broadway Avenue train tracks on June 18-19 and June 24-25 to conduct a commodity flow analysis. EMA will be counting the number of hazardous materials that travel on the train tracks, and if over a certain level, the county can apply for additional grants, he said.

• Heard a request from Bob Green of the Perpetual Care Committee to repave roads in Marble City Cemetery. Green suggested looking into a landlock natural paving system as a cheaper, but reliable alternative to asphalt paving. Lucas said they should consider splitting the cost of paving with the committee, but no decision was made.

• Heard a proposal from Shannon Plexico of the Planning Commission for the city to host a three-day municipal board training conference next month, facilitated by the University of North Alabama, for about $9,200. Of 14 members on the Planning Commission and the Board of Adjustments and Appeals, Plexico said only two had ever received training.

The council meets today at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Contact Emily Adams at eadams@dailyhome.com.

© 2013