City land purchase discussion continues

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Little did Larry Striplin know that his 111-acre property along Selma’s Highland Avenue would stir such controversy among city government officials.

“Maybe I ought to withdraw the offer to sell it,” Striplin said during a special called meeting Tuesday night at City Hall. “I want to be proud of Selma, but somehow we keep on shooting ourselves in the foot.

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“I appreciate Selma and if it helps to eliminate this frustration, I’ll be happy to withdraw the offer.”

Striplin – who purchased the property 25 years ago for $630,000 – has stamped a $1 million price tag on the site.

Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. preferred not to entertain Striplin’s solution, saying he wanted to bring “full clarity” to the failed land acquisition voted on by the city council. Perkins said the acquisition’s purpose is “to control the land for development purposes preferably for public use.”

Perkins asked Striplin and representatives of environmental study, land appraisal and land survey companies to share their findings on the property with councilmembers. Council President George Evans and Councilmembers Dr. Geraldine Allen and Bennie Ruth Crenshaw questioned if the property was subject to floods and environmental and health hazards. According to land appraisal reports, the property does have two minor flood areas and doesn’t pose any obvious hazards.

Councilmember Reid Cain had questions regarding the site’s historic value, citing the Battle of Selma was fought on the property. Cain said according to the Alabama Historical Commission, no “dirt can be turned” until an assessment is made and historical artifacts could be retrieved.

Selma City Planner Charlotte Griffeth said the Alabama Historical Commission studied the property in 1985 and 1996. Both studies garnered no results.

“There were no artifacts as it relates to civil war structures,” Griffeth said. “There’s nothing conclusive and nothing that can be filed with the Alabama Historic Commission.”

Perkins later addressed the city’s financial position for the land purchase, reporting the city is in the black and has seen an increase in sales tax revenues during the last fiscal year. Ed McCurdy of Peoples Bank and Trust also addressed the council regarding a loan for the property. McCurdy said if the bank decides to approve city’s request, the city would issue a $100,000 down payment and make interest-only payments of $4,000 for the first twelve months of the loan agreement.

While questions remain to be answered, George Evans said the meeting did clear up a number of concerns.

“What we’ve gotten here tonight is what we hoped would happen prior to the vote taking place,” Evans said. “I’m not against purchasing the property, but if we purchase the property we need to make sure we can afford it and give the general public a chance to speak.”