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County reacts to school district real estate deal

Article Date: 
28 September, 2012 (All day)

In the middle of real estate negotiations with the Morgan County School District, Morgan County officials said they were wrongly cut off.
The county had offered an undisclosed amount of money for the district’s old bus garage at 38 N. South State Street.  The district decided to sell the 1-acre property to Blain Smith for $250,000 cash.  Superintendent Ken Adams said Smith’s offer matched the county’s.
“They were legally obligated to the offer they made to us,” County Council Chairwoman Tina Kelley said.  “We were in negotiations.  We hadn’t said no.”
Councilman Ned Mecham said he was invited to a district executive session to discuss the offer.  However, by the time he arrived, the board had already signed papers accepting Smith’s offer and did not allow Mecham a chance to increase the county’s offer.
“It was a done deal before I got there,” Mecham said.  “It bothered me.  This didn’t go over too swift with me.  It was absolutely, highly unethical, extremely unethical.  They didn’t keep their agreement they sent me.”
In a letter to the county, Adams said accepting Smith’s offer was a way to expand commercial property along State Street and increase the county’s taxbase.
However, council members weren’t so sure.
Councilman Don Mathews said he worries an investor purchased the property and intends to sit on it.
“This really bugs me.  We bent over backwards to help the school district,” Mecham said.  “We don’t want them to think the county council will be at their beck and call.  A bridge has been burnt with Ned.”
Adams addressed Mecham in the letter.
“I would like to express my thanks to Ned Mecham for his work on this project,” Adams said.  “He is an outstanding leader and represents the county with distinction.  I respect the service provided by our county officials and employees, and consider many of them my friends.”