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Commission reaches compromise agreement

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes County Commission will return a $500,000 check to Karl Bell and reportedly borrow $250,000 in connection with interest on bonds floated by the county to purchase the Hayneville Plaza, according to Commissioner Dickson Farrior.

Over the objection of Commissioners Farrior and Joseph Barganier, the County Commission voted three-two Tuesday night to approve a compromise to an agreement made last June regarding $500,000 to be held in escrow to pay interest on bonds floated by the county to purchase the Hayneville Plaza for use by the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission.

Following an executive session and also over the objection of Farrior and Barganier, the commission voted three-two to amend the compromise approved earlier to allow the return of a $500,000 cancelled check to Karl and Helenor Bell. Karl Bell was president of Hayneville Plaza LLC at the time of the Hayneville Plaza purchase.

Copies of the compromise agreement were not made available, but Farrior said during Tuesday night’s meeting that it involved the county borrowing $250,000.

Commission Chairman Charlie King Jr. and Commissioner Robert Harris said the compromise agreement would become public record after the minutes from Tuesday night’s meeting are approved.

Voting in favor of the compromise and amendment were King, Harris and Commissioner Marzett Thomas.

The commission took no action on a contract with the law firm of Haskell, Slaughter Young & Rediker LLC, which Harris said had to do with an ongoing legal matter.

On June 27, 2011 the County Commission voted over the objections of Farrior and Barganier to approve a $3.5 million bond issue to purchase the Hayneville Plaza building as a hub center for the South Central Alabama Broadband Cooperative District.

King, Thomas and Harris voted yes.

The official bond statement approved at that time was subject to two agreements being executed, according to Lowndes County Attorney Henry “Hank” Sanders.

Sanders listed a real estate lease agreement between Lowndes County and the Broadband Cooperative District that would provide for rent to pay the bond and an agreement between South Central Alabama Broadband Cooperative District, Karl Bell, owner of the building, and Lowndes County that $500,000 of the bond proceeds would be set aside to pay that. The county would have no responsibility for paying the $500,000 or the interest, said Sanders.

Tuesday night, Barganier told Commission Administrator Jackie Thomas, “I want you to put it in the record that I voted no because I felt like the original agreement should have been followed.”

Farrior said, “What we’ve done here tonight is borrow an additional $250,000. We can’t make the payment on it now and that’s not what the agreement was.”

Farrior also said of interest payments, “…Broadband or SCABC, which ever one of them is to suppose to pay it is not paying it and the county is having to borrow money… You’re not going to get yourself out of debt by borrowing money. You get yourself into a deeper hole.”

Regarding a contract with Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker LLC. Farrior said, “We just got it tonight.”

He told Commissioner Harris, “You had it in the minutes last month that we wouldn’t take action on something we just received.”

Harris asked, “What’s going on?” He said, “I think we’re making a lot of stuff that ‘s really not. And I think there is too much hostility right now for anybody… We all have different opinions.”

“I want to do whatever I can to move the county forward… and this is going to move the county backwards,” Farrior said.

After an executive session was held, Sanders clarified the amendment to the compromise, saying, “The previous motion that was made is in compromise of the motion dealing with the $500,000 on June the 27th and that the cancelled check for $500,000 should be returned to the Bells.”

Tuesday night’s meeting actually began in Jan. 9 and was continued to both Jan. 10 and Jan. 17.