January 9, 2010 7:50:00 PM
Jason Browne - [email protected]
Temporarily blocked from buying a piece of land near Caledonia High School, the Lowndes County School Board may try to take it.
The board voted 3-2 Friday to begin eminent domain proceedings if Darrell Whitaker refuses to sell a 2.53-acre plot of land between two access roads east of Caledonia''s campus.
The board voted in December to offer Whitaker $40,000 for the land based on its appraised value. Whitaker, who also owns the Caledonia Quick Stop across Wolfe Road from the school, purchased the land for $48,000 five years ago.
"I''m not trying to gouge the school," Whitaker said. "I''m just trying to get what I gave for it."
Included in the motion to begin eminent domain proceedings was the decision to first make Whitaker a $44,000 counteroffer. Board Attorney Jeff Smith said legal fees from an eminent domain trial could cost the school district $5,000-$10,000.
Whitaker says he''ll consider the counteroffer.
"I may look into it," he said. "I''m not trying to play hard ball."
Superintendent Mike Halford told the board the land east of campus was necessary if additional space was to be added to the school.
"It would allow us to extend the high school instead of paying $25 million for a new high school," said Halford.
Board members Robert Barksdale and Jacqueline Gray voted against the decision to offer Whitaker an additional $4,000.
Barksdale says it''s possible pending eminent domain litigation would persuade Whitaker to settle for $40,000.
"If we can get it for $40,000, why pay $44,000?," he said.
In other business the board: