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Concerns mount in Dresden

Aerial View of southside of court square.
Photo Credit: Nicholas Oliver

Dresden Municipal Complex Floor Plan

By Press Reporter Shannon Taylor

Property owners have grown concerned over statements made by Dresden city mayor Jeff Washburn lately. At the last meeting, floor plans were discussed regarding the construction of the new municipal complex and some issues were raised regarding the plans as well as issues regarding property owners on the square.

The way that the plans work right now, the new and wider sidewalk will overlay some of the owner’s property and if the owners decide that they didn’t want that sidewalk they could do so and build their building right out to the edge of their property. According to Washburn, property owners could have the option to buy in to the new sidewalk plans. Alderman Gwin Anderson said that if property owners decided to build their properties to the edge that “visually it’s not going to look right, and I would like to see them play along with us.”

An issue that the municipal complex also faces is that Tony Winstead owns an area that comes behind city hall. Washburn stated that Winstead told him that he had developed plans for the use of this area and the use would be to create a green space. “We would have a difficult time being able to utilize that for traffic flow or a kiosk.”

Washburn stated he had spoken with Dickie Hutcherson who he said was considering the sale of his property to the city. Washburn also said he had spoken with Keely Wilson about her property and that she was “willing to work with the city.” Washburn said Wilson would be either donating the property to the city or selling it but paying for her demolition costs.

Washburn, after being questioned by Aldermen Kenneth Moore and Sandra Klutts at a previous meeting, stated that Wilson “has been mailed a deed to sign.” City Attorney Beau Pemberton prepared the deed. The blank deed was for Wilson to sign her property over to the city. Washburn had also said that all the property owners on the square were in agreement for the shared demolition costs and that Tony Winstead had actually physically signed a request for demolition.

Washburn said “I talked to the District Attorney General and he planned to talk to Miss Wilson and Hutcherson too and as far as I know he did. We have not had a commitment from Hutcherson to give the property to the city of Dresden. He’s offered to negotiate a price for the purchase of it which would mean that he is going to assume the costs for the demolition.” Washburn stated that Wilson was mailed a copy of the deed. “I believe she may have also received a copy of what the cost of her share of the demolition was.”

Moore questioned at this meeting whether the property owners sent something signing their properties over or did Pemberton and Washburn just take it upon themselves to send deeds. Moore further stated that he was questioning the matter because people didn’t understand what was going on.

Klutts further questioned at that same meeting whether the city had received signatures by property owners agreeing to the demolition because she was concerned what would happen if someone decided they didn’t agree to demolition.

Washburn said, “Well, every one of them was present here. I don’t know that any of them signed the forms of requesting the demolition, but all of them were in agreement with it.” He claimed he received verbal agreements stating, “Everybody knew what was going on and were agreeable to it.”

Winstead told the Press he never signed anything. “In order to build back I would have to re-excavate what they’ve filled in down there because they’ve buried some debris in the site where the basement was.”

Winstead also sent Washburn and city recorder Jennifer Branscum emails stating, “When you sent out your letter a few weeks ago for everyone to sign releasing the city of liabilities and giving permission to enter our property to remove debris, I purposely refrained from signing.”

Winstead went on to say he felt the letter was too “open ended.” Winstead said he later drove by his building and that “several thousand dollars’ worth of property that I planned to remove appears to be either buried under the ruble or missing.” Winstead also said that he had a contractor ready to demolish the building and haul the debris away for an affordable price.

In another email Winstead said that he was upset that deconstruction was started without proper planning or consent. “We were adequately prepared and capable of managing our situation in a timely manner if left to our own resources.” He stated that doing the demolition as a group had added cost and personal agony to his situation. “We have lost thousands of dollars’ worth of property because of the illegal entry and destruction of our building.” Winstead has been unable to locate the items he had planned on removing. Winstead said that what was done was both morally and legally wrong.

Winstead said that when he saw the demolition taking place and sent the emails, demolition was stopped, but everything he wanted out of his building was hauled off or destroyed. When Branscum asked if they could go ahead and continue demolition he said, “Yeah I guess so, the damage is done now.” Winstead didn’t see that as signing anything and “certainly didn’t sign anything giving them permission to start.”

When the Press spoke with Wilson, she stated that she had never received anything from the city aside from the blank deed she received a few weeks ago. She also stated that she had not received anything from the city regarding demolition. She said she drafted a letter to Washburn and all of the alderman in order to clarify any confusion or misinformation regarding her stance on her property.

Anderson actually told Wilson at a previous meeting, “We are helping you, and this is the way it is going to be-the best way you’re going to come out. Now, if you don’t want to do it then we’ll try to carve out your building and then give you a time to get it done to what you want to do.” The board then voted unanimously to approve the demolition costs of $129,472.00.

As of right now Winstead and Wilson are not pleased with the way the city handled things regarding demolition, questions about their property or being contacted regarding questions pertaining to anything related to those matters.

Information was received that a contractor from a non-profit organization had offered to demolish and haul away debris from the southside of court square free of charge at a meeting shortly after the tornado hit Dresden in 2021. Those present at these meetings, according to information received, were Washburn, the Long-term Recovery Group and other local leaders. These were the same meetings that were held between community leaders and organizations that received monetary donations which were closed to the Press’s attendance.

The Press was able to speak with the non-profit organization, who wishes to remain anonymous at this time, about the matter. The non-profit confirmed that there was a meeting very early on with the Long-Term Recovery group and other local leaders. The non-profit said that they have partnering organizations that help with things such as demolition and hauling away of debris. The non-profit’s partnering organization said that if there was enough to demolish in Dresden that they could come in and take care of that free of charge. The non-profit confirmed that the information was relayed at the meeting and stated that they were shut down. They were specifically told, “We do not need your help.” As far as the non-profit was concerned that was the end of the conversation.

Washburn was asked if he knew about any of the work being able to be done for free and he stated that this non-profit had never “communicated directly with me as Mayor or through official channels for the City of Dresden regarding any demolition or cleanup work and specifically pertaining to the South Side of the square. I will say this, if this consulting firm had provided any information regarding how the City of Dresden could have the southside of the square demolished and cleanup without cost, the City of Dresden would have certainly happily entertained their proposal to have saved the taxpayers the cost of demolition and cleanup.”

Branscum stated that she was unaware of this.

Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum responded by stating, “I don’t recall that conversation. Any non-profit that we’ve interacted with we’ve always told that we’re happy to work with any non-profit that provides any sort of service, but that we wanted to do that very systematically to make sure those impacted were treated fairly. It would have needed to go through the proper channels.”

Aldermen Lindal Dilday, Ralph Cobb, Willie Parker and Klutts stated that they were never made aware that a non-profit’s partnering organization came forward early on willing to do the demolition free of cost. Klutts further stated that she would be looking into the matter.

The property owners were supposed to have been sent receipts of the cost of $129,472.00 to be paid on a square footage basis of their property lot. Regarding a non-profit’s partnering organization’s attempt to do the demolition for free Wilson stated that “I hope that is not the case. I would be concerned if that offer was made and not followed up on.”

This is a developing story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Citizen T on May 16, 2022 at 7:19 pm

    Per usual, local govt taking advantage of the citizens. I wonder if the demo crew that profits from this work was in any way family, or friends of the city council members or mayor?? Why else would the city not take full advantage of the non profits bid to remove debris for free??! They’re gonna try to put Weakley County citizens under the proverbial thumb in any, and EVERY way they possibly can, and profit from it all the while…..

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