Westover property may be sold; Union City officials consider options

Westover property may be sold; Union City officials consider options

Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2008 9:34 pm
By: Donna Ryder Messenger Associate Editor

By DONNA RYDER Messenger Associate Editor The Westover saga may soon be over. Several years ago when the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center moved from the former Westover School to its location in the industrial park, the building sat vacant, awaiting a decision by the Union City Council about its future. As time passed, the building was entered by vandals and much of the property was damaged. Some council members had stated they didn’t want to be in the building business and would entertain selling the building to someone who would do something with the property. However, it was decided the best option for the city was to demolish the old school. Bids were taken and accepted. Before the property was razed, Emily Elliston appeared before the board, pleading for the council to stop the demolition and allow a group to be formed to save the building. Since that day, Friends of Westover has been formed and has gone through the long process of obtaining a 501c3. The group later decided to be known as Westover Center for the Arts to reflect the vision they saw for the building. The group was then informed that the council would lease the property to Westover Center for the Arts but that entity had to meet certain criteria, such as having the building brought up to code within a two-year time frame. The deadline was Aug. 1. When several members of the Westover group appeared at the council meeting Tuesday night, it was apparent they hadn’t given up on repairing the property. Dr. Richard Chesteen of Union City spoke on behalf of the Westover Center for the Arts, taking the council through a bit of history to get his point across that the history in the building should not be destroyed. He said the group has been able to get a line of credit, removed insulation, paid insurance on the building and made improvements. He said local engineer Paul Buckner has looked at the property and has said it is “physically sound.” He added the group has also been able to get state and federal funding but the holdup on getting that money has been obtaining the mayor’s signature on the paperwork. “You want to see improvement in the building. The only thing keeping this from happening is Mayor (Terry) Hailey’s signing the paperwork,” Ches-teen said. “We’re asking for 60 days to show improvement.” Specifically, he said that improvement would be a new roof. Chesteen said he was asking the council to “leave the light on.” He added that the property itself isn’t worth more than $20,000 and “if you don’t think the building is worth anything, then sell the building for $20,000 and let us have it. You won’t have to deal with it.” After some discussion, Hailey said all the council wanted to do was “get out of the building business,” but that he was under the impression that it couldn’t be sold. City attorney Jim Glasgow Jr. said he checked into it and that the city can sell the property without going through the bidding process. He added the reason the city decided not to sell it in the first place was because the council wanted to maintain control of what happened to the building. It was decided that both the city and the Westover group would obtain appraisals on the property only. Ms. Elliston is then to appear before the orientation session to discuss the purchase. The council voted to allow the mayor to sign the paperwork for the grant. In other business, the council: • Decided to wait until the next meeting before making a decision on Traffipax installing automated red light photo enforcement cameras and processing the violations. • Received an update from Police Chief Joe Garner on National Night Out activities. • Voted to allow Ken-Tenn Humane Society to place a mobile home on city property, which will be leased by the organization, and to start placing dog kennels on the property. President Lois Birk said the group has enough money to construct the first building for the dogs. Property has already been staked out for the organization to use, city manager Don Thornton said. • Created a new zone — B-R (business recreational) — to be used for Discovery Park of America. • Amended the zoning ordinance to include the new flood maps. • Awarded Hank Riley the bid to demolish the building at 1115 East Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive for $2,000. He is to also remove the concrete slab on which the building sits. • Approved revisions in the personnel merit system to increase the police lieutenant’s pay from grade 54 to 56 and decrease the director of planning and code enforcement from grade 67 to 65. It also sets the director of turf management and facilities operation at grade 65. Thornton said it adds $100 per 28-day cycle to the police lieutenant’s pay and decreases the director of planning and code enforcement by that amount. • Voted to acknowledge the state-certified tax rate is $1.82 cents. The city’s tax rate is $2.02. Thornton said accepting the certified rate does not mean that the council is adopting the rate. The rate will be set when the budget is approved. The council at that time can decide to exceed the certified tax rate if it deems it necessary. • Issued a public thanks to the Obion County Highway Department for work performed at the industrial park. • Was asked by councilman Bill “Rat” Harrison why the city has so much trouble getting people and businesses to clean up their property. He said he would think landlords would be able to make their tenants clean up. Thornton informed him all cities have this problem. • Was asked by councilman Dianne Eskew how long a car has to sit on the roadway before it is towed. She said the car in question has been there several years. • Was asked to consider placing signs saying no bike riding and no skateboarding at Kiwanis Park. • Asked Thornton to find out what the city would have to do in order to accept debit cards at City Hall. • Was asked by a business owner to place no parking signs along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at Nash Street because people parking on the streets there are allegedly drinking and selling and doing drugs. She said they leave their trash, broken bottles, beer cans and drug paraphernalia on her property and other lots in the area. She added that children walking to the Boys & Girls Club and her store, as well as church members at the local church, have to walk by and over this trash. The council agreed to consider it. Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by e-mail at dryder@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 8.7.08

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