by Walker County News Today staff
Readers may recall that we previously reported on the Feb 6, 2018 decision by the Huntsville City Council to sell a .6-acre parcel of land located just behind Humphrey’s Bar and Grill on Sam Houston Avenue.
This parcel was sold without a .102-acre strip of land that provided access between it and Sam Houston Avenue. It had been discovered that the strip had been paved over, allegedly without the City’s knowledge, and was being used as parking for customers of the restaurant.
Then, at the Feb 20 City Council meeting, Mayor Andy Brauninger proposed that the City sell the remaining strip by a competitive sealed bid process. That proposal was followed by a lenghty discussion of several issues including exactly how someone could manage to modify and use City-owned property without anyone at the City noticing. There was also a question of the ethics in allowing that unauthorized use to continue. The Council decided to defer a decision on the motion until their March 6 meeting.
By contrast, at the March 6 meeting, there was very little discussion and the Mayor’s original proposal was approved by a vote of 8-1, Councilmember Joe Emmett voting “No.”
Readers interested in learning more about this issue can review the more complete two-year history by reading our previous story here.
Earnest Money Contract for Ella Smither Property on 11th Street
At the Feb 6, 2018 meeting the Huntsville City Council announced that it intended to buy the old city hospital property on 11th St. as the future site of a new combined Police and Fire Department Facility.
By a vote of 6-1 with Councilmember Ronald Allen voting “No,” the Council directed the Interim City Manager and the City Attorney to draft and sign an earnest money contract for the purchase.
Councilmember Allen stated that he opposed the purchase because he felt that the City already owned better property elsewhere and didn’t need to spend the $2.25 Million. He also argued that the 11th Street location was not a good one for such a facility, particularly a Fire Station.
The motion that was approved at the Feb 6 meeting identified four specific parcels that the City wanted to buy. But, as previously reported, some of the parcel numbers contained in the motion did not match those shown on the Walker County Appraisal District website for these properties.
At its March 6, 2018 meeting of the Council voted to correct that mistake. The motion was approved 8-1 with Councilmember Allen again voting “No” for the same reasons as before.
These actions were all taken before the latest event: a Temporary Restraining Order issued by a Walker County District Court ordering the Walker County Hospital District to refrain from selling to property. The sale has been temporarily halted pending resolution of a competing claim of ownership by heirs of Ella Smither. For more on this development, see our full article.
2017 Annual TIRZ Report
This is the annual report submitted to the City Council by the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) Board. It shows that about $4.0 million of city property taxes have so far been or are committed to be spent on the TIRZ. That money along with another $6.0 million in sales taxes is being rebated to the developer of the Ravenwood Village Shopping Center. This past year about $218,000 was collected in property taxes all of which went back to the developer.
Purchases from Hardware and Supply Stores
The City Council approved a motion to authorize the City Manager to sign purchase orders with several hardware and supply stores with terms of one year with one-year renewal options. Included are open purchase orders with Walker County Hardware and Elliott Electric of Huntsville.
Water Agreements with Montgomery County
After a separate session not open to the public, the Council reconvened and without discussion voted to amend a water permit and two water agreements with Montgomery County Municipal Utility Districts 8 and 9. There was no public discussion and no further details of these actions were made available.