In media release, Commissioners explain closing of Hayneville Plaza

Published 12:18 pm Monday, September 8, 2014

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By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
After six different entities found the Hayneville Plaza “seriously deficient” the Lowndes County Commission recently voted to ask all businesses to vacate the Hayneville Plaza as soon as they can find another place, “but no later than Dec. 1, 2014.”
That was the emphasis of a media release read aloud by Commission Administrator Jackie Thomas at the commission’s regular meeting Monday.
Thomas was asked to read the release by County Commissioner Brenson Crenshaw, which referenced a vote taken at the body’s Aug. 25 meeting.
According to the release, the building was found deficient by Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood; Davita; Gordon L. Davis, Structural Engineering Consultant; Meadowbrook Insurance Group; Star Insurance Company; and Franklin Engineering, all who were independent.
Included in the media release were statements by Commissioners Crenshaw, Carnell McAlpine and W. Dickson Farrior. The release did not include comments from Commission Chairman Robert Harris, who said he did not know the release was going to be read.
The commission approved a $3.5 million bond issue in June of 2011 to purchase the Hayneville Plaza, appraised at $3.2 million for use by the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission over the objection of Commissioners Farrior and Joseph Barganier.
Harris is lone member of that body remaining, who voted in favor of the cpurchase. Also in favor at the time of the purchase were then Commission Chairman Charlie King Jr. and Commissioner Marzett Thomas.
In the release, Commissioner Carnell McAlpine said, “We have been advised the Plaza was never built to commercial specification. It was built to house specifications. It is not safe for the public or for businesses. We have to do something.”
And Commissioner Dickson Farrior said, “I did not vote for the county to purchase the Hayneville Plaza. Neither did Commissioner Joey (Joseph) Barganier.”We opposed this purchase because it was not good for the county.”
Harris said with all the information available at the time and all commissioners aware that the building was to be purchased, “There was never a question about the structure of the building. The only question that was really talked about was really was the building worth the amount that we paid for it, and that was basically it… noting else about the structural integrity of the building.”
He said there were five commissioners and an engineer with structural knowledge who never mentioned the structural part of it. He also said the attorney never mentioned the structural part of it.
“And neither one of the five commissioners, who were there, whether they voted for it or against it, questioned the structural integrity of the building,” Harris said.
Also in the release Crenshaw said, “We want the convenience of the Plaza for our citizens and businesses, but we cannot risk their safety in a building that is unsafe for human use.”
And it was pointed out that Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood advised the commission to cease using the Plaza immediately; that the commission has not decided how to handle the Plaza in the future; and estimates to put the building to commercial specifications are $2.4 million or more.
Harris said, “You know, we as commissioners should be able to come to some type of resolution and try to make the best decision possible to move forward… either saving the building or getting some type of use out of it.”
Harris said, “We have to still pay for it.” And he said, “I think we have five commissioners who are intelligent enough to make a sound decision, realistically on how we could keep the building and make the building work in some manner.”
When asked why the release was read, Farrior said, “I think we just wanted the public to know what was going on that we had a building that didn’t meet standards, that wasn’t built to standards and was wrong from day one. And, you know, I opposed it from day one.”
He said, “It was a bad deal for the county. It was costing the taxpayers money. And we had a bad situation that we just had to close it. And we are going to try to make the best of it.”
McAlpine agreed. He also said, “People having parties or whatever they need to know that we are not renting it anymore.”
McAlpine said the businesses at the Plaza have no choice as to moving out. He said, “The building is not insured so they can’t stay there.”

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