At an Ohatchee Town Council meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Steve Baswell said he’s still waiting to sign off on taking control of a piece of property along Alabama 144 that the Calhoun County Commission approved giving to the town in May. Baswell said he hopes to schedule a meeting with county officials in the upcoming days.
Calhoun County Attorney Thomas Sowa said the snag in the transfer is due to concerns from Ohatchee on environmental factors. Underground fuel storage tanks are on the property, and Ohatchee wants confirmation that the county will continue to monitor those tanks after the property transfer, Sowa said.
“They’re being very cooperative,” Sowa said about dealing with town officials. “There’s nothing contentious, it’s just about sitting down with them and figuring out what we’re going to do with these storage tanks.”
Sowa said he spoke with Baswell Wednesday morning and hopes to schedule a time to meet with the mayor and Calhoun County Commissioner Don Hudson about a final approval for the property.
Ohatchee officials are tight-lipped about plans for the project, although Baswell did say during Tuesday’s meeting he’d like to convert the property to a recreation center.
“We’ll give it a shot to see if our young folks want to take advantage of a rec center,” Baswell said Tuesday. “If not, we will use it to store equipment.”
After the meeting, Baswell declined to comment on the project, saying he didn’t want to get residents’ hopes up about a possible recreation center, and he reiterated Wednesday he’d rather talk about the project only after the transfer was completed.
Sowa said the land containing the barn is close to another seven-acre parcel of property awaiting transfer over to Ohatchee. The Ohatchee Volunteer Fire Department is currently using the property to build a community storm shelter before the land is transferred to Ohatchee.
“It’s moving along,” Sowa said. “Just one more piece of a jigsaw puzzle fitting into place.”
The Calhoun County Highway Department used the barn for a daily operation site when county road work was divided by districts, said Assistant County Engineer Rusty Gann. Although still used as a storage barn as recently as a year ago, Gann said it’s been more than a decade since the barn was used as a centralized location for operations.
“It was just more feasible to meet in one place,” Gann said.
Gann said the barn housed building materials and served as a refueling site for county equipment.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star. Star Staff Writer Leah Cayson contributed reporting.