November 5, 2013 9:44:33 AM
Lowndes County supervisors unanimously agreed Monday to give the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority no more than $37,000 to remove asbestos from the old Crawford Community Center.
They'll mull their options on how best to demolish the dilapidated structure.
District 4 supervisor Jeff Smith lobbied to complete both tasks, with county road crews demolishing the structure as a substitute motion to the original, which only accounted for asbestos removal. The motion failed 3-2, with Leroy Brooks in support. Harry Sanders, Bill Brigham and John Holliman opposed.
Smith said the abandoned building has served as a haven for drug dealing and other criminal activity. He also wanted to have the site cleared so plans to build a new fire station on the property could begin. Both issues have been long-standing in the community, he said.
"Every entry to that building is available for you to walk right in," he said. "The back windows are knocked out. The front windows are knocked out. It's just a bad situation that needs to be resolved. I heard you guys talk about a health and safety issue with a home in a public hearing and your desire to get past that. It's my desire to get past this. We owe it to the community out there to rid them of this blight. We owe it to ourselves to finish a project we adopted and said we were going to do."
Lowndes County fire coordinator Sammy Fondren said the town's current fire station is old and lacks basic necessities including a restroom. The department wants to build an expanded, updated facility for fire protection in the Crawford community, he said.
"We have the money earmarked in District 4's budget to build a station," Fondren said. "We do not have the funds to go beyond a much greater amount if we were responsible for trying to remove that facility for the asbestos and site work. If this is not a doable location, we will look at some other sites."
Sanders asked Smith how much it would cost to tear the building down.
"We were planning for the demolition to be done by the county (road department)," Smith said before citing examples similar work done on park property. "I don't know why it's a big deal for the county to do it."
Smith said there was scrap material inside the building that could be sold to recoup some of the cost to the road department budget and a site a mile away from the building where the rest of the scrap could be dumped had been identified, which would cut down on fuel costs for hauling.
"Because this thing has dragged on so long, we've already created options that eliminate a lot of costs," Smith said. "We can work this out where it won't hurt the county."
Board president Sanders said funds had been budgeted this year for asbestos removal and the plan was to set aside funds for demolition next budget year.
"I don't think we've got the money to do the other, and Ronnie (Burns, road manager) certainly doesn't want to do it," Sanders said. "We didn't do that with the old health department. We put it out for bid."
Smith noted that whenever a supervisor asked for support on something desired in another district he always obliged but often doesn't receive the same respect in return.
Brigham said he was "tired of hearing that," before the two talked over each other and Smith regained the floor.
"I represent a different makeup of people," Smith said. "My district is different than any district in this whole room. I've got the poorest district with the poorest people, and their needs are different from the needs of people in other areas. That don't make me wrong because I come in here and ask for things for a district that has a lot of issues....Yeah, I ask for a lot, but I've got a lot I need to do. Tomorrow, I'll come in here and I'll ask for something else. Not because I'm trying to get everything for my district, but because my district has so many needs and because I've been elected to represent my district. I'm not wrong for that."
In other matters, the board:
■ Approved a cumulative $43,662.38 in invoices for the Mississippi Steel Processing project;
■ Reappointed Thomas Lee to an at-large position on the Lowndes County Industrial Development Authority board. He was the sole applicant;
■ Closed out the North Steel Road development community development block grant project. The county matched $58,000 of a $580,000 grant for infrastructural upgrades in the Golden Triangle Industrial Park;
■ Learned the county had received an "excellent" report on its latest state road inspection last month.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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