Headlines News

Land deal fails again

Council still at impasse over 10-acre hospital plot

At the council meeting, from left, Nancy Lowrey, Debbie Rowell, Samantha Bennett (front), Celia Lambert (back), Emily Wilson, Dale Ash.

News Staff Writer

Members of the Atmore City Council remained at an impasse, failing for the third time in eight months to make a decision on a request by local healthcare officials for 10 acres of prime land on which a new hospital could be built.
A late change to the agenda brought the issue before the council during its Monday, May 13, meeting, but the results were the same as they had been at two prior meetings — the four-panel members did not render a decision, one way or the other. (District 3’s Chris Walker was out of town and did not attend the session.)
The last time it was brought up, Walker and Staff asked that it be tabled until an opinion could be obtained from the Alabama Ethics Commission on whether Walker, an assistant vice-president for United Bank, and Staff, whose wife works for the local hospital, could be involved in such a decision without violating any ethics statutes.
“This is the resolution we had before us before the ethics thing came up, and we need to bring it up again,” the mayor told council members. “It’s the resolution asking the city for some property at Rivercane.”
District 1’s Webb Nall introduced a motion in favor of the real estate donation, but only silence greeted a call for a second. The measure produced the same result when it was introduced in October 2018.
After the meeting, Escambia County Hospital Authority Treasurer and former Chairman Nancy Lowrey asked Staff just what message the council was sending.
“Does that mean there’s no interest in our request?” she asked the mayor, who replied that “they didn’t want to make the decision without all the council being there.”
Lowrey, obviously frustrated by the council action, said as she left the meeting room that the brief discussion with the mayor was all she had to say about the council’s decision not to decide. She did acknowledge the presence of several ECHA and other healthcare officials and personnel — including Debbie Rowell, ECHA chairman; Chris Griffin, the authority’s newly appointed CEO; Suzanne McGill, director of nursing at Atmore Community Hospital; and several nurses and other hospital employees.
“I have no comment at all, not today,” Lowrey said. “We did have a bunch of support here.”
No timetable was announced for bringing the issue before the council again.
In other business, the council:
* Tabled a resolution that would allow Smart Growth America to continue its survey and assessment of the local economic picture. District 2’s Jerome Webster asked for the postponement “because of the wording” of the resolution.
* Voted to participate in the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday that is usually held in August.
* Approved the use of Houston Avery Park for the second annual Hogfest BBQ Competition, which is scheduled for June 22.
* Approved the closure of a portion of Church Street during Leadership Atmore’s June 6 Chicken on Church fundraiser.