Nine months after voting to buy a building and turn it into a civic center, one member of the Selma Town Council says it is time to sale the property.
Last December, a divided Selma town council voted 3-to-2 to purchase a 5,000 square foot building, located at 300 North Webb Street, from the Selma American Legion. At the time, the Town of Selma did not have $60,000 on hand to buy the 80 year-old building. The Legion agreed to finance the building for three years with the Town making three annual payments of $20,000 plus interest.
Leaders want to turn the building into a civic center with modern amenities while still maintaining many of the historic features. The Center, they envision, would be rented out to businesses and individuals for local events, conferences, meetings, weddings, family reunions, entertainment and more.
The price tag to refurbish the building is $300,000. In December, town officials promised an aggressive fundraising campaign in 2016 to help pay for the costs, but to date the public-private partnership has raised just $20,000 through the sale of personalized bricks.
Councilman William Overby who voted against the purchase told fellow board members at the August town council meeting $300,000 will likely never be raised for the project and it was time to sale the building. Overby believes there is still good use for the building by a private individual or business but not for the town. He said it was time to place the property back on the tax roll.
Mayor Cheryl Oliver disagreed with Overby saying she believes corporate contributes will be coming in soon to boost the fundraising efforts, being spearheaded by Ann Williams, who plans to present an update to the town board as early as the September meeting.
Overby said at the December meeting it was made clear that Selma taxpayers would not be held accountable for the $300,000 cost of renovations. At the present rate, Overby says it will take 15 years to raise the money needed.
“I don’t want to see the fundraising go south and expect the taxpayers to be on the hook to complete the project.”
“The Town of Selma is the owner of the building that the American Legion Post sold to us,” Overby said on his website. “As the owners we must follow the same process as new business coming into Selma to do. At this point there are no plans turn(ed) into the Town Hall so therefore the Council has no thoughts or suggestion as to a possible course of action this project is headed.”
“There should be a public hearing so that the taxpayers can be heard.”
Overby says the Town of Selma currently owns 14 additional properties and while the civic center may have been “a nice idea” Selma should divest of as much publicly owned property as possible.
Councilman Tommy Holmes also voted against the purchase of the property in December. He told WTSB News he agrees with Overby in that it is time for the building to be sold.