City Council votes against purchasing 'Red House'

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lewisburg's councilmen on Nov. 23 voted 3-1 against buying the old McLean school building, also known as the red house on First Avenue North.

The house was up for sale on Tuesday during a tax auction in the Marshall County Courthouse conducted by Chancery Court Clerk and Master Tommy Higdon.

The house was not sold and it will become the property of the city and the county after one year passes unless the owner pays the taxes and court costs.

Two reasons were debated for the purchase idea that was rejected.

They were:

* Parking, as suggested by Councilman Robin Minor, who explained by asking if anyone has had trouble finding a space during the Goats Music and More festival in Rock Creek Park, just northeast of the property with the old brick building that seemed to be consumed by kudzu last summer.

* Demolition for public safety since the structure might very well fall as a result of gravity and its own disrepair. Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. discussed this option that would seem to be a city expense whether the city buys the house, or not, since the owner hasn't been located and others might see the real estate as a money pit, not buy it and leave demolition as a city responsibility anyway.

The house is owned by Michelle Driver who is believed to have a Huntsville Post Office box address, and three other street addresses: one in Florence, Ala.; and two in Lincoln County.

Reasons against buying the house included Councilman Ronald McRady's point that if the city owned it, preservationists might want the city to restore the old school. All agreed it was beyond repair.

Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart brought the issue to the council. She explained that the tax auction is how the city could own it and control whatever might be done with the property. Not buying the real estate at auction would not make it city-owned property.

The council discussed the variables for nearly an hour. Mayor Barbara Woods called for a motion. Stewart moved to have the city buy the house at auction. Minor seconded the motion, more to bring the matter to a vote than in support of the purchase.

When the roll was called, Stewart voted yes. Minor, McRady and Whitehead voted no. Councilman Hershel Davis was absent. The mayor doesn't vote unless there's a tie.