By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Atmore City Council, sitting one member short, voted unanimously during its Monday, February 11, meeting to reject Atmore Area YMCA’s attempt to deed its building and grounds to the city.
Citing the prohibitive cost of bringing the former Atmore High School building up to code and shoring up its failing foundation, council members did not hesitate to turn down the offer.
“It will take $3.4 million to bring it back up to where it needs to be,” Mayor Jim Staff said. “We ain’t got $3.4 million.”
The YMCA ceased doing business on November 30. The organization’s deed to the property stipulated that, should the YMCA have no further use of the building, which was also formerly owned by Atmore Lions Club, ownership would revert to the city.
“As our lawyer has informed us, we do not have to take this property,” Staff told the panel prior to its vote. “The deed that said we did was back when the Board of Education deeded it to the Lions Club.”
District 4’s Susan Smith made the motion to refuse the property; District 1’s Webb Nall seconded the motion, and all four council members voted in favor of rejection. (District 2’s Jerome Webster was reportedly having some medical tests done and was unable to attend the session.)
“The YMCA will have to redo their quit claim deed and deed it to either the Lions or the BOE,” Staff said.
New conference center
During a council workshop held immediately before the meeting, the mayor told council members that Poarch Band of Creek Indians had requested that the city give them the 5-acre tract behind PCI’s Smoke Shop.
The tribe, which is currently using the property as a parking lot for tractor-trailer rigs, plans to build a conference center-entertainment venue there. The structure would hold between 5,000 and 10,000 people, Staff reported.
District 5’s Chris Harrison asked if the city would receive full tax benefits from the property transfer, and Staff said it would.
“It’s inside the city limits of Atmore,” the mayor said. “It would be covered, and they would hold rodeos and concerts there. We would get tax revenue from ticket sales and concessions, and there would be ad valorem taxes.”
He predicted that allowing PCI to build the conference center would also have a significant impact on the city’s economy.
“I’d bet you that there would be two more motels and surely one new restaurant if they build that,” Staff said. “The one they have now holds 2,500 people, and when they have an event, everything we’ve got — all the hotels and motels — are full, and this will be two or three times the size of that one.”
Councilwoman Smith said she had no objections to the deal, but “would like (PCI) to come and request it.”
City Clerk Becca Smith reminded council members that the matter was before the city’s governing panel for discussion only, noting that “the paperwork has to be drawn up by our attorney before it’s voted on.”
In other business, the council:
*Approved a request by Ladies of Essence to conduct a Mardi Gras parade on March 2.
*Heard from Anne Powell that representatives of the U.S. Census Bureau would soon be moving through the city, collecting data for the 2020 population count and demographics survey.
*Approved an ordinance establishing a Historic Preservation Commission. (The entire ordinance is included in this edition of Atmore News.)