Council: No details, no sale

Published 1:01 am Tuesday, June 14, 2016

This building, once Florala City School and most recently known as Florala Middle School, was built in 1912.

This building, once Florala City School and most recently known as Florala Middle School, was built in 1912.

Mayor to negotiate with Smith, Bishop

The principals of the LLC seeking to buy the Florala City School will need to get more specific about its plans for the building before a sales agreement will be inked.

Trebor/Selrahc LLC has had an offer on the table to buy the Florala City School administration building from the city. The offer expired June 8, but principals Robert W. Bishop of Andalusia and Charles T. Smith of Laurel Hill have indicated they are still interested in the building, built circa 1912, for which they have offered $22,000.

Earlier this year, the city advertised for proposals for the school building and the old National Guard armory. When the first proposal it received for the school building fell through, and after the deadline had passed, Councilwoman Ann Eason presented the council a letter from Trebor/Selrahc offering to purchase it. A letter from Bishop circulated to the council said, “Future plans are varied, and will be worked out with the Save Our School Board, which will consist of civic-minded individuals interested in the preservation and civic, cultural, and economic effect the building will have on not only Florala, but our surrounding area, county and state, as well.”

Bishop said the board will seek 501-C3 (tax exempt) status, and will seek grants available for restoration.

“The economic and jobs creation benefits of this endeavor will total millions of dollars over the next 100 year life of the school building and property.”

After rumors circulated that the beloved building would be taken down and and its components sold as architectural antiques, the council, on the advice of its attorney, the asked the mayor to meet with the principals and work out a plan to sell the building to the yet-to-be-formed 501-C3.

But Mayor Robert Williamson said Monday night that Bishop said they LLC was not interested in a purchase in those terms. Following a sometimes heated exchange between Eason and Councilwoman Hazel Lee Monday night, the council unanimously voted to have Mayor Williamson work out a sales agreement with the two principals.

“We don’t want to have the school building to go to somebody we don’t know,” Eason said, referring to a previous proposal received that would create a community center or bed and breakfast at the school. “We want to let the alumni classes handle the building.”

When Eason was challenged about a motion she made in a previous meeting to not sell the building, she replied, “Y’all were gonna sell it to strangers.”

Eason maintains that the LLC will create a “Save our School” board that will raise money, seek grants, and oversee the operation of the building.

Councilwoman Lee was advocating reaching an agreement with stipulations and moving on. At one point, when Eason said the council was holding the LLC to a higher standard than others who had submitted proposals, Lee even sought divine help.

“Oh, Jesus, help me,” she said.

Mayor Williamson said after the meeting, the details of the sales agreement will have to include the LLC’s intent for the building, its economic impact, and an assurance that the building will not be torn down.

In other business, the council:

• Heard in an audit report from Ben Vance that 2015 was an “exceptional” year for the city.

• Granted permission for Harry’s Grocery on Hwy. 331 to install above-ground diesel fuel tank, so long as it is in compliance with ADEM.