The Elmore County Commission ended years of indecision Monday by agreeing to sell the former Thames Pharmacy building to the City of Wetumpka for $130,000.
“We’re moving forward,” commission chairman Troy Stubbs said after the meeting. “This matter has been ongoing for decades. I’m not in office to keep kicking stuff down the road.”
The county built the current structure in 1956 but the property was originally donated to the county by the Tulane Trust in 1898. It was most recently used for storage.
The commission voted 4-1 to authorize Stubbs to execute the sale. Commissioner Kenny Holt, the lone dissenter, said prominent local businessman Keith Holley told Holt during a phone conversation Monday he would offer $150,000 for the building and property, located at 121 East Bridge St. in downtown Wetumpka.
“Is that in writing?” Stubbs pointedly asked Holt during the work session.
“No, it was a phone call,” Holt said. “But if he said $150,000, I’m sure he’d come up with it in a few days. He won’t do anything harmful to downtown Wetumpka.”
Holt said the property was originally given to the county by H.B. Tulane to be used for the specific purpose of helping those in need.
“It was a gift in the 1890s to help needy people, to help indigent people, and somehow it got off track,” he said. “It was given under specific conditions.”
But county attorney Jeff Courtney said the trust did not specify intended beneficiaries.
“We are the trustees in this particular matter,” Stubbs said. “We can use the funds to assist multiple potential beneficiaries.”
Holt said the county had not made an effort to advertise selling the property, questioned an appraisal the city based its $130,000 offer on as “worthless” because it cited comparable properties in other cities and didn’t support passing up an offer of $20,000 more than the city is willing to pay.
“There are no hard feelings,” Holt said. “You all can do what you want. But I can’t vote to give $20,000 away. I say we get the most we can get to help the needy people of this county, period.”
Stubbs said the city will pay the closing costs on the deal, and he and commissioner Bart Mercer said selling the property now makes sense given its condition.
“For over a century it has been many different things,” Stubbs said. “It’s a 10,000-square foot building that would require hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements to make it habitable. The previous county commission considered moving the county offices there but they decided instead to build the courthouse annex which turned out to be a good decision. I believe it would have cost $1 million to renovate (the Thames Building).
“When this commission took office, we decided to evaluate all county property and what we could do with them. This was openly discussed in 2018, maybe 2017. There was no specific beneficiary so the (state) attorney general’s office assumed the responsibility for representing any beneficiaries.”
Mercer said with an offer on the table it would be unwise to keep the building and risk paying thousands of dollars in repairs.
“I see the value of selling the building now and helping Wetumpka achieve the goal of developing downtown,” he said. “When this commission took office, it was vacant and used for storage. If we hold onto it, something could happen to the building and we’d have to invest more in it. I see multiple benefits to selling it now. We have a buyer.”
In other action at the meeting, the county commission:
• Heard county engineer Richie Beyer say budget meetings with department heads for the 2020 fiscal year are scheduled to begin this week.
• Heard Beyer report debris cleanup from a May 4 storm in the Elmore area is continuing. “Due to the density of the homes there, it was a lot of debris for something that was classified as not a tornado,” he said. Mercer said 300 to 350 loads of debris had been removed.
• Approved a memorandum of warrants totaling $964,006.33 from May 18 through June 4.
• Approved the annual report on errors, insolvencies and litigations from the 2018 tax sale. These taxes are due the state but tied up in litigation or unresolved errors or disputes in assessments. The totals are $910.26 in taxes connected to insolvencies and $55,414.97 due to errors in assessments. Also, there are $1,082.51 in uncollected balances of insolvent taxes for 2017 and a $3,329.69 credit for taxes which are in litigation and uncollected in previous years.
• Accepted an RC&D grant of $4,253 for CERT training materials for the county Emergency Management Agency.
• Accepted the resignation of Wendell Saxon from the Crenshaw Community Park Board and discussed putting Hertisene Crenshaw and Fagale Shuford Grant on the board by July 22. Saxon, a member of the Elmore County Board of Education, submitted a letter of resignation.
• Discussed nominating Rashawn Blassingame to the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority Board by July 22.
• Approved declaring as surplus a revenue commission Dodge 1500 truck and a commission office Dodge Durango so they can be sold.
• Approved family leave for Cynthia Nelson affective June 10.
• Approved a donation of 105 hours of sick leave from Anthony Edwards to Angela Rigsby.
• Was notified of the hirings of Rhonda Penn and Raven Crenshaw as Crenshaw Park summer counselors, the transfer of tag clerk Sarah Glenn to probate clerk, and the resignation of tag clerk Linda Baker.
The next meeting of the Elmore County Commission is 5 p.m. June 24.