by Walker County News Today staff
At its regular meeting last week, the Huntsville City Council began a process that could result in the City building its proposed new combined police and fire station at the site of the old City Hospital on 11th Street across from the Wynne Home.
After an Executive Session and no previous public discussion, Councilmember Keith Olson moved that the Council accept an offer from the Walker County Hospital District to sell the Ella Smither property at the corner of 11th Street and Avenue O for the sum of $2.25 Million and to proceed to enter into an earnest money contract for the property.
The motion drew an immediate objection from Councilmember Ronald Allen: “I’m against paying that kind of money. I’m going to vote no on purchasing this land for the police and fire complex. I do not think this is a good location, especially for a fire station. I cannot vote on spending over $2 million of taxpayer money when we already own land that would not cost taxpayers a dime. There’s no way that I can justify this expenditure.”
Councilmember Olson responded: “After the sales of the other two properties, on the small end, the city would net over $800,000 in positive revenue. The taxpayers would most likely have more money, than they would have less. That’s why I authorize this and hope everyone supports it as well. This would place police and fire in the best quadrant of the town.”
City Attorney Leonard Schneider noted that the Council’s decision to approve the earnest money contract would not constitute a final decision by the Council to buy the property. That would require a separate action that could only be taken after two readings in open session.
The Council voted to approve entering into the earnest money contract by a vote of 6-1 with Councilmember Allen voting “No.”
NEW POLICE/FIRE STATION DESIGN
In a separate but related move the Council conducted the first of two readings to consider awarding the design contact for the new combined police and fire station to Architects Design Group, a Florida-based company. This Company was selected from a group of 17 who responded to a formal Request for Qualifications (RFQ) competition held by the City in 2017.