A Birmingham-based security training firm is trying to buy the former Army barracks known as “the starships,” a purchase that could net more than $1 million for the McClellan Development Authority.
“It is very important, because the only way we make money is by sale or lease,” said Julie Moss, director of the MDA, which is the body charged with redeveloping the land on Anniston’s former Army base, Fort McClellan.
The MDA’s board of directors met behind closed doors for about an hour Wednesday evening, invoking their ability, under state’s open records law, to meet in executive session to discuss real estate dealings. Also present for part of the meeting were representatives of Xtreme Concepts, the security company that began renting the complex of buildings in 2015 as a training site. The closed-door session was part of a longer special called meeting.
Leaving the meeting, Xtreme owner Landon Ash said he was invoking his ability to buy the building under his lease-to-own contract with the MDA. He declined further comment.
The barracks complex has long been one of the best-known landmarks on McClellan. Although the reason for the “starship” name itself is unclear, Army publications use the label to refer to barracks built in the 1980s that house an entire battalion in one building.
According to MDA’s 2015 contract to sell the buildings, the authority’s asking price for the Starships is $2.8 million — but Xtreme could knock the price down by as much as $1.4 million to offset the company’s improvements to the property and the rent it has already paid.
MDA attorney Jason Odom said the company would likely pay in the neighborhood of $1.18 million to buy the property outright. He said Xtreme first invoked its option to purchase the property three weeks ago.
The MDA board didn’t vote on a purchase after the executive session, and it’s unclear what Ash and the MDA discussed in the meeting — though it’s possible the transition to a new director at the MDA may have added a wrinkle to the negotiations.
Moss, the current director, started work at the MDA about two weeks ago, following the departure of former longtime director Robin Scott. In an open portion of the Wednesday meeting, board member Bill Robison seemed to suggest that there files related to the proposed purchase that staff couldn’t immediately find Wednesday.
“The files that those guys kept referring to, the exchange, are they in hard copy, are they in the computer or are they in Robin’s head?” Robison said. Robsion mentioned Xtreme by name in those comments.
After meeting, Robison said there was an “exchange of communications with one prospect” that MDA officials hadn’t found yet.
“It’s not that it’s missing, it’s ‘help us locate it so we can benefit from what ground’s already been plowed,’” he said.
Board members said they expected to discuss the matter again in a January meeting.
The board also discussed a proposal to stock Yahou Lake, a former recreation site for soldiers, with fish. A staffer said it would cost around $3,600 to fill the lake with bluegill, then add bass when the bluegill are large enough that the bass wouldn’t immediately eat them all. Even with fish added to the lake, staffers said it likely wouldn’t be fishable until 2020.
“You’ve got to give fish time to be catchable,” said board member Aaron Acker. “You can’t just put them in there and expect them to be 10 pounds in two weeks.”
Robison said the board should consider drafting rules for fishing on the lake before adding the fish. Among other things, he said, the board should decide whether a state fishing license would be enough to permit fishing at Yahou.
“Do they have to come here and get a permit?” he asked. “Do they just go and get a license?”
Yahou is a constructed lake, built in 1967 to accommodate soldiers at the base.
The board in 2016 voted to spend roughly $27,000 on repairs to prevent damage to a dam that could have led to loss of the lake.