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City-county land deal stalled by paperwork

MONTICELLO – Progress on a land swap between the county and townwas stalled by legalities Tuesday, but officials are confident thedeal will continue as planned.

A vocal agreement between the Lawrence County Board ofSupervisors and the Monticello Board of Aldermen would see thecounty trade the Lawrence County Sportsplex to the town in returnfor the old police station on Broad Street and one-half of thematerials to repair its roof. Volunteers with the Lawrence CountyCivil Defense will volunteer their labor in the repairs.

The county plans for the old police station to serve as theEmergency Management Office, which will merge the offices of thecivil defense and homeland security under one roof.

On the advice of County Attorney Malcolm Rogers, supervisors didnot act on a motion to approve the swap Tuesday morning, saidDistrict Two Supervisor Billy Joe Boutwell. Rogers was concernedabout the board voting on an issue before the paperwork wascompleted.

It’s a simple matter of working through some legalities,Boutwell said. There are issues regarding federal grant money thatwas used in building the sportsplex that must be transferred alongwith the deed and that paperwork has not been completed.

In essence, he said, the paperwork ensures that the park mustremain open for public use.

“It’s not a problem, it’s just something we have to do,” hesaid. “We hope to be able to hold that vote at the nextmeeting.”

“We ran into a similar problem last year when we were purchasingthe water park,” said Mayor David Nichols. “We had to sign the sametype of paperwork then.”

In a town budget approved Tuesday night, the town has alreadyallocated money to fund a recreation director and a full-timeemployee to plan events and perform maintenance and upkeep on thesportsplex as well as Atwood Water Park.

“We’re excited about the possibilities,” Nichols said. “Bothboards agree the agreement is what is best for the children of thiscounty and Monticello and also that the sportsplex could be a realmoney maker with a full-time staff to plan events andtournaments.”

There was no discussion Tuesday on how, or if, the town plans toaddress merging the Lawrence County Sportsplex Association with theMonticello Recreational Board. Sportsplex committee members and thealdermen are continuing to negotiate on the best way to implementthe sportsplex into the town’s recreational infrastructure.

Negotiations are currently centering on two possibilities: tokeep the boards separate or to merge the two five-member boardsinto one ten-member board. Both options have positive and negativeaspects.

“We want to do what is right and best for the citizens andchildren who will use this facility,” Nichols said, “but we alsowant to be sure we consider which way is best for us to qualify forthe grants we need to improve the parks.”

Officials have said they will continue to operate the boardsseparately, with no changes, until they agree on which option isbest. That process could take as long as a year or two.