Alexandria Avenue land bought for possible park

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: July 11, 2006

JACKSONVILLE – Despite the opposition of one councilman and one local resident, the Jacksonville City Council on Monday agreed to buy a chunk of land on Alexandria Avenue for $68,000.

The city hopes to use the land for a park. Mayor Johnny Smith said it one day could connect the Public Square and the Chief Ladiga Trail.

“It provides us a connection to the west end of town all the way down to Alexandria Avenue,” Smith said after the meeting.

Councilman Jeff Shelton opposed the purchase, saying the city should not spend money on a site just so it will have the option to develop it in the future.

“Devoid of real long-term planning, I’d like us to put this on hold and not buy the property,” Shelton said.

“I think we do have a long-term plan for the property,” Smith countered, adding that a recent study of Jacksonville’s downtown area by researchers at Auburn University recommended the city put a park in this area.

Jacksonville resident Mary Jones also spoke out against buying the land, calling the area a “swampland.”

The property under discussion had been appraised for tax purposes at $109,540, but the owner, Fred Stemmley of Sun Lakes, Ariz., negotiated the price of $68,000.

The council also authorized $2,500 in cleanup work at the old train depot on Mountain Street.

A plan to turn the depot into a welcome center on the Chief Ladiga Trail was halted earlier this year when the only bid came in at $955,000, almost double what the council had budgeted.

Parks and Recreation Director Bo Batey said the work will make it easier for contractors to more accurately assess renovation costs.

The city will rebid the project this fall, he said.

Debate also arose over a resolution denying a pay raise to city typist Twila Thornburg. Thornburg appealed to the Civil Service Board, which approved the raise, but council members voted 5-1 against it, stating only the council has power to approve or reject such “step raises.”

Smith and Councilman George Areno cited the Civil Service Board Rules and Regulations, saying the board cannot overrule the council in this area. Shelton read from the same document to say it does have the authority.

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