Pell City, BOE partner to buy building
by David Atchison
PELL CITY — Schools Superintendent Michael Barber told the mayor and City Council Thursday that the Board of Education would partner with the city to buy the CenturyLink building.

“We want to be co-owners,” Barber said.

He said the school board could pay 25 percent of the total cost of the building and in return occupy about 25 percent of the 53,000 square foot facility.

The school board’s central office is currently housed in a portion of the facility’s second floor.

The CenturyLink building, which is on the corner of U.S. 231 and Bruce Ethridge Drive, has been for sale for the past three years.

Barber said the purchase of the building could help the School System bring the rest of its central office and technology department under one roof.

The city has eyed the CenturyLink building as a possible site for a new public library or media center.

Mayor Joe Funderburg said the facility could provide much needed space for the city and a new home for a library.

“I think it is a good deal for the city and the BOE,” Funderburg said. “I could envision a lot of city offices under one roof.”

Barber said there is nothing better than having a public library right underneath school board offices.

“It could be a win-win for all of us,” Barber said, adding that the school board likes being in the CenturyLink building. “I think this could be a great partnership.”

He said the Board of Education would pay a quarter of utility costs for the facility, if the city and School System partner to buy the 20-year-old building.

This is not the first time that city and school board officials have talked about a partnership to buy the CenturyLink building.

In January 2011, the council considered the purchase of the building but decided that the city could not afford to purchase it at that time.

In that proposed agreement, the BOE also suggested securing a fourth of the building. In the 2011 proposal, the school board tentatively agreed to pay for a quarter of the building maintenance and half of the utilities.

Owners of the CenturyLink Building were asking for $2 million for the property in 2011.

Former Mayor Bill Hereford said the property was appraised at $4.5 million.

At that time, city officials acknowledged that the building may need work.

A local builder, who inspected the facility for the city, said two heating and air units on the roof needed replacing and could cost as much as $200,000.

The CenturyLink Building Review report, prepared by Jason Goodgame with Goodgame Company Inc., also indicated that the city may have to replace the roof of the building in the next five years, if the city bought the building.

There were also questions about whether the main floor of the building could support the weight of books.

“The floor areas over the basement and second floor do not have the strength to support library loads,” stated a report written by John Jones, a structural engineer for Barnett, Jones, Wilson LLC in Pell City.

Officials said the flooring in the left wing of the building could be removed and replaced with concrete flooring to support the weight of books.

The wing is about 20,000 square feet, plenty of space to house the entire library. However, other spaces of the building could be used for public computer terminals, conference rooms and other space for public gatherings, officials said in 2011.

Despite added expenses, many city officials thought the investment was sound.

According to Goodgame’s 2010 report, the building was constructed in 1989.

Although the current mayor, council and BOE members have expressed interest in the purchase of the CenturyLink building, those bodies or entities have not publicly discussed the actual purchase of the facility or discussed exactly how much the facility would cost the city and BOE.

However, the council is on the verge of voting on whether to secure a new bond to re-finance old debt and secure an additional $3.5 million for city projects, which could include funds for a library and swimming pool.

The BOE could refinance a 2006 bond issue to help provide additional funds or refund so it could pay for its share of the CenturyLink building purchase.

Barber told the council Thursday that the BOE was looking at the possibility of re-financing of an old bond debt, if the council moves forward with its refinancing plans. The BOE would piggy-back on the loan process with the city to secure a lower interest rate.

Contact David Atchison at

© 2013