Rejected depot project was 9 years in making

Published 1:42 am Thursday, July 7, 2016

On Tuesday night, the Opp City Council voted 3-2 against a plan to renovate the city’s historic depot, despite at least nine years of work toward that goal.

The planned renovations were a key component of the downtown redevelopment plan that the Southeast Regional Planning and Development Commission helped the city write.

Discussions began with local stakeholders, officials, the Opp Downtown Redevelopment Authority and others in 2007, who thought it was time to chart a course for the future of downtown and to improve the framework needed to develop a unified vision for the downtown area.

Among the goals of the plan were to improve and sustain attractiveness of downtown Opp, which included improving and maintaining the infrastructure, while keeping downtown clean and maintained. This also included streetscape improvements, increasing pedestrian access and parking efficiency. It also included rehabbing the historic depot.

The plan’s overall goal was to create an attractive downtown area in which pedestrians can stroll through town and take advantage of local businesses.

The city, in 2010, launched a multi-phase project that included moving utility lines underground, improving sidewalks to make them more accessible, taking down the red lights which were replaced them with four-way stops.

At a March 2010 public meeting, Scott Farmer of Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission also spoke about renovating the Depot, which is a landmark for the city.

The FY2011 budget included $100,000 for roofing the Depot building. The FY2012 budget included $50,000 for Depot expenses.

In January 2012, then Mayor H.D. Edgar said he’d like to get to work on the Depot “right away.”

Another discussion about the depot occurred at a May 2012 council meeting.

The council learned at the time that a lot of materials for the Depot must be custom made.

Then city-planner Don Childre said at the time that the doors and windows are made in a special pattern.

Council members agreed that everyone in the city would like to see the building restored.

They also all agreed the problem was getting the money.

In July 2013, the city discussed a $5.3 million, three-year capital improvement plan, which included Depot renovations. At the time, it was estimated that the project would cost $700,000, with the city’s expected contribution to be $300,000.

By September 2013, the city was awarded $400,000 in funding through the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for the rehab.

In March 2015, the city again discussed a three-year capital plan, which included the renovation of the depot, which was to be paid for by a TAP grant of $400,000. The project was estimated to cost $710,000 with the city contributing $310,000.

After years of making sure that the plans were up to standard, the city was allowed to solicit bids in February of this year. The bids were opened on March 15, 2016.

On Tuesday night, the city council in a 3-2 vote declined to move ahead with the project.

Councilmembers Bobby Ray Owens, TD Morgan and Mary Brundidge voted against it. While, Mike Booth and Arlin Davis were in favor.