• 64°

Land ownership transfer set for Clanton Council first reading

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Clanton City Council will have the first reading of an ordinance to approve a limited warranty deed that would change ownership of the future Alabama Farm Center site from the Chilton County Commission and the city to the Alabama Agriculture and Exhibition Center Cooperative District during its meeting on Feb. 22.

The limited warranty deed would stipulate that the Alabama Farm Center must break ground within 12 months, and have 350,000 square feet of buildings “under roof” in 24 months for the Cooperative District to retain ownership of the property. If these stipulations are not met, the property would go back to being owned jointly by the city and the county.

During a work session on Feb. 18, Council member Mary Mell Smith asked if the item could be done by resolution so that it could be voted on Feb. 22.

City Clerk Jonathan Seale said because the issue involves real property it has to be done by ordinance, which requires two readings, rather than simply by a resolution. The second reading would be two weeks from the first reading.

“What’s the hurry?” Mayor Jeff Mims asked.

“Just to get it done,” Smith said.

The Council does have the option, which it has used many times in the past, to approve suspending the rules to allow a vote to be taken after the first reading. Suspending the rules can only be approved by a unanimous vote.

The Chilton County Commission has already approved the limited warranty deed contingent on the Clanton Council’s approval.

Mims said he would like to see the city’s representation changed on the Alabama Agriculture and Exhibition Center Cooperative District and the separate Agriculture Authority before land was given to the Exhibition Center Cooperative District.

“I talked to Alfa yesterday and asked them to change those board members that are on those boards … I don’t feel like the city is represented on those boards, and I have asked them to change two of our people,” Mims said.

On Feb. 24, 2020, Clanton City Council appointed Bobby Cook as its representative to the Alabama Agriculture and Exhibition Center Cooperative District. This was before Mims and the new Council members took office.

“Bobby Cook don’t represent this city no more,” Mims said. “… I think it needs to be someone here on this Council or someone who works here with me every day, so we know everything that is going on.”

Cook is no longer a Clanton City Council member. However, the representative to the Cooperative District could be anyone the City Council appoints.

Van Forrester is one of two board members that were approved by the state legislature as a part of the formation of the Agricultural Authority.

Each was appointed to a multiple-year term, so the current representatives would need to resign before someone else could be appointed.

“I have not talked to any of those people on those boards,” Mims said.

Mims said he told Alfa he wanted to replace Cook and Forrester with himself and Bob Woods.

He said he was for the Alabama Farm Center project, but wanted representation from the current City Council.

Smith questioned what changing the representations on the board had to do with the ordinance being discussed.

“If you transfer that land to them, how much leverage do you think you are going to have,” Mims said.

“It needs to be done,” Smith said.

“I agree with you,” Mims said.

“I don’t see how we can transfer property that tax payers paid for without some kind of representation involved in the negotiation,” Council member Wade Watley said.

Mims questioned why it would be a big deal to change the representatives.

“I just don’t agree with it being done (land transfer) unless they change it (representatives),” Mims said, commenting he would not vote in favor of the limited warranty deed unless the changes were made.

The mayor does have a vote on the Council.