Garan Property in question

By Russell Hood The Webster Progress-Times

Eupora aldermen are still undecided as to the future of the city- owned Garan property on Highway 9 South.

The city received sealed bids April 2 on the sale or demolition of the property as advertised, with the minutes of that night’s Board of Aldermen meeting showing that two bids were received.

According to the minutes, Mississippi Demolition and Recycling of Eupora bid $37,500 to tear down and remove all the building (salvageable materials) including slab. Byars Metal Services of Carrollton bid $28,500 to remove all scrap from the building.

No bids were received as to purchase of the lot and building. The board eventually approved a motion by Dan Burchfield (at large) to accept the bid of $37,500 from MDR. Burchfield said he felt a clear lot would be more feasible to build new structures on or easier to divide and sell.

Before the board voted on the motion, Billy Brister (Ward 2) asked what ideas had been developed as to renovating the existing building and renting out spaces as well as approximate costs involved. Mayor Tommy Lott explained his idea to renovate the building with heat and air, roof repairs and electrical work to offer retail and office spaces.

Hank Flowers (Ward 4) said he would like to wait and readvertise or see if other possible options arise. Ricky Newton (Ward 3), who had seconded the motion, said he believed completely clearing the area would make it more appealing.

The motion was approved 4-0; Brister abstained because of the company (MDR) being a family relation.

However, the mayor and board revisited the city’s awarding of the bid on May 7 because of a misunderstanding. As reported April 12, MDR owner Jim Smith had actually submitted two bids.

His other bid was to “remove all material to the dirt under the Garan building for the material in the building” at no cost, or payment, to the city. This does not include the parking lot or concrete outside the building.

“We had a little confusion on that,” Lott told board members that night.

Burchfield, who supported accepting Smith’s bid to take the building down at no cost to the city, referred to it as a swap; with MDR getting the benefit of selling the scrap and the city benefiting by not having to pay to have the building demolished. Lott said he thought the city should keep the building rather than accept that proposal.

However, Burchfield said, “We’re not getting any money for it, but we’re not losing anything either.”

He added, “I think he’s (Smith) willing to go ahead with it (but) if we don’t accept this bid (demolishing the entire building at no cost to the city) then we’re going to have to rebid it and we may or may not get it as an ‘Even Steven’ deal. … We may have to pay somebody to tear it down.”

The discussion ended with board voting 3-1 to table the matter until MDR could be contacted about the length of time it would honor its bid; Brister was out of town and unable to attend the meeting.

Burchfield, who voted nay, expressed support for accepting Smith’s bid to demolish the building at no cost to the city. “I think we run the risk of having to pay someone to tear it down (if readvertised),” the alderman said.

The matter was back on the agenda of a special called meeting on May 17. During the discussion, Burchfield said, “The bid that we accepted was an erroneous bid. It was not what (Smith) bid. It was our mistake.”

The mayor presented a proposal to demolish only the north half of the building and subdivide the south side into four sections for leasing. This would bring in money and the city could still market the approximate 7 remaining acres of the property, he said.

Burchfield, who expressed concerns about the viability of the proposal, questioned the cost of refurbishing the remaining part of the building and its management on a day-to-day basis.

The board again voted to table the matter until the next called or regular meeting, and agreed to let Lott to look further into his proposal.

Former mayor Pete Fortner, in a statement to the mayor and aldermen before they adjourned May 17, said, “I’d like to see y’all completely demolish the building.”

In related action on May 7, the board approved zone reclassification for the Garan property from I-1, Industrial, to C-2, Commercial. This followed a public hearing at which no one voiced any opposition.

The same motion approved the reclassification of the property now owned by Tommy and Donna Gladney on the east side of Highway 9 north of White’s Welding. It was rezoned from A-1, Agricultural, to Commercial 2. The Gladneys are constructing commercial ministorage units on the land.

Vickey Patterson (Ward 1) and Flowers were unable to attend the May 17 meeting.