Florala UB to give building back to city

Published 11:59 pm Monday, June 29, 2009

In a show of “cooperative spirit,” the Florala Utilities Board agreed to donate the “old city hall building” to the city, Mayor Robert Williamson said Monday.

Williamson said the move is “another indication of the cooperative spirit that has developed between the city and utilities board” after the resolution of a nearly two-year legal battle between the two entities over the number of municipal officers allowed to sit on the utilities board.

The dispute, which was resolved last December, was the root of a split between the city and utilities board that led to moving “city hall” and its operations to the adjacent building, where the mayor’s and city clerk’s offices currently share space with the Florala Police Department.

The old city hall building has been empty since the Utilities Board moved to the old Alabama Power Building.

If the city ever discontinues use of the building, which is valued at approximately $125,000, ownership will then revert back to the utilities board, Williamson said.

“As for the use (of the building), that’s going to be up to the council,” Williamson said. “I’d like to see us move our offices back into the building and renovate it completely — inside and out. Maybe we will be able to house some additional offices there too.”

Williamson said the council was “pleasantly surprised” when it was notified of the utilities board’s decision.

“Marvin Williford (utilities board chairman and current city councilman) made the request and there was no opposition,” he said. “The city is extremely thankful for the building. I think the decision is a ‘hat’s off’ to the people who are willing to work together for what’s best for Florala. To me, it’s indicative of the way a panel should work. If you don’t see eye to eye, you still have the city’s best interest at heart.”

Williford said the reasoning behind the donation was simple.

“The city needed the building and didn’t have the money to buy it,” he said. “It’s a better place for meetings, for the public to see. So I asked the board to give it to (the city).”

As part of the agreement, the city will cover the closing costs and any real estate purchase costs attached to the transaction.

Both parties hope to accomplish the property sale “as quickly as possible.”