A 4-to-3 vote of the Barbour County Commission gave the approval to move to the next step in possibly acquiring property in Eufaula to move the Eufaula Courthouse services to. In the Aug. 13 commission meeting, commissioners gave the go ahead to county attorney Walter Calton to make inquiries into the purchase of a parcel of land located on West Barbour Street.
During a special called meeting held in Eufaula on Aug. 29, Calton reported back to commissioners that the county now has a 120-day option on the property that started on Aug. 15, to decide on whether the county will purchase the property or pass it up. The 120-day option is costing the county $5,000 in a non-refundable binder, but will allow them time to have a feasibility study and cost estimate done on what renovations the building would require to accommodate the courthouse services currently housed in the courthouse on the corner of Orange Avenue and Broad Street in Eufaula.
According to a letter between Catton’s office and the realtor representing the owner of the property, JSR Real Estate Holdings, LLC, “the county commission is not willing to undertake the costs to determine the feasibility and the costs of renovation without an option to purchase before any work begins.”
The price offered by the county commission if they decide to purchase the property is $625,000.
Commissioner Jerry McGilvray made a motion after the attorney’s presentation, motioning to authorize Commission Chairman Earl Gilmore to appoint a committee to recommend an architect to prepare a floor plan and to meet with department heads to help come up with a cost estimate that will be presented to the whole commission so they can make a decision on the building. Commissioner Frank Straughn seconded the motion.
As Gilmore called for discussion on the motion, several commissioners had questions about who would be hiring the architect; it wasn’t understood by some as to who would appoint the architect -- the commission or the committee. Calton stepped in and told the board, “The contract has to be approved by the whole commission; whether to hire an architect or move forward. The committee has to come back and make a recommendation to the Barbour County Commission; then the commission would vote on it.”
Commissioner Rachel Smith asked what the committee’s job would be in the process to which McGilvray answered, “They will meet with the architect, work on the floor plans, meet with department heads and try to come up with a cost estimate. The committee would come back to the whole commission and present its findings.”
“This is step one,” Gilmore said.
Commissioner Francis Crews voiced her concerns with the process saying, “I don’t understand how we can just look at one building and come up with a decision. We don’t know if it’s feasible to get into that building compared to what needs to be done with this building (the current courthouse).
“I thought we were going to do a study on all three buildings as to what needs to be done so we would have something to compare it to. It seems to me that our minds have already been made on purchasing a building in Eufaula for Eufaula instead of looking at that building as to what needs to be done and looking at Clayton. I thought we were going to look at all three of these and then make a decision on which one would be best. What are you going to compare it to if the only thing he’s going to look at is that building to see what it would cost to get in that building. If they don’t look to see what it would cost to remodel this one, what are you going to compare it to? How can we decide to spend X amount of dollars on that one and that would be it?”
Commissioner Stan Adams pointed out the he understood where she was coming from but that the commission never said they were going to compare any of the three buildings.
As the meeting progressed, the commission was reminded that the 120 days started Aug. 15 and to put off naming a committee would only eat into those days, as another date would have to be agreed upon to meet when everyone was available to discuss the topic.
A roll call vote was taken on the motion originally offered by McGilvray with commissioners Smith, Straughn, Gilmore and McGilvray voting yes, and Crews, Ivey and Adams voting no to appoint a committee.
With the passing of the motion, five people were appointed to the committee: Commissioners Smith, McGilvray, and Adams, along with Revenue Commissioner Marshall Williams and Circuit Court Judge Burt Smithart.