The city has been negotiating with union members, city planner Toby Bennington told the Anniston City Council at the work session on Tuesday, but the members have been uncomfortable with making a move. To sweeten the deal, city staff worked out a potential land swap for the union –- the city-owned Davis Lodge at 1805 Davis Avenue for the union hall at 110 W. 13th St.
Ronald Bonner, president of the local, confirmed the union members’ discomfort with the move. The members are happy where they are, he said.
“They offered that pretty early on and we didn’t want to do it,” Bonner said.
The membership has dwindled over the years to its current 143 and that would make taking on a new building difficult. Although the current building could use some work, it serves their needs, Bonner said. It offers free parking, little upkeep and no mortgage.
With the city wanting the property, Bonner did look around for a new building, but the options were too expensive and needed renovations to make them suitable as a meeting hall. The union hall appraised for about $35,000, not nearly enough to pay for a new building in the same neighborhood. So that makes the land swap seem a little more attractive, but still not ideal.
“I feel like it’s an option we’re kind of stuck with right now,” Bonner said.
But the councilmen at the meeting were concerned that the deal might be a bad one for taxpayers.
Councilman Herbert Palmore wanted to know if the trade was equitable. The councilmen believe the lodge would be worth about $65,000, at least $30,000 more than the union hall appraised for.
“I wouldn’t call it exactly equitable,” said finance director Danny McCullars. “But that’s relative here.”
The Davis Lodge costs the city between $5,000 and $7,000 a year to maintain but only brings in about $1,500 in rent. Giving it to the union would mean that cost would be gone. In addition, if the city were to purchase the building, there would be a cost.
There are just three options here, Bennington told the council members -- to purchase the property, do a land swap or condemn the property. Each of those options would cost the city money and could cost the union members their meeting place.
“Yes, you can look at the building on the exterior, you can look at the building on the interior, but that’s a meeting place,” Bennington said. “That’s another set of values that you have to look at.”
Councilman David Dawson wanted to have the lodge appraised and to see the appraisals of the union hall.
“Nobody wants to see us get moving faster on the justice center than I do,” Dawson said. “But on the other hand we owe the citizens of Anniston the right decisions about their money.”
Bonner said if the city were to ask for additional funds along with the transfer of the building, it would be impossible for the union to come up with it. He believes the appraisal on the union hall is low anyway.
“You can’t go buy a building with that square foot... in Anniston for... $35,000, especially with free parking around,” Bonner said.
The council members also discussed how and when to start looking for applicants for a school board member to replace Richard Hooks, who died last weekend. The council has 30 days to appoint a new member to the board. They decided to advertise on Sunday, after Hooks’ funeral, for applications to be turned in beginning Monday, Nov. 7 and ending Nov. 14. The members will meet at 5 p.m. on Nov. 14 to look at the resumes and discuss interviewing the applicants. They decided to have the Board of Education members involved in the process and will provide them with copies of the resumes and have a joint meeting after the interviews to discuss the appointment.
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.