By Michelle Key
In spite of pleas fromMaurice Ward, owner of the property housing the historic Ward Funeral Home, the Opelika City Council voted unanimously to approve the bid from AAA General Contractors, Inc. for the demolition of the structure.
“I do have the financing for it (improving the building) but I just have not found a general contractor. My plea is to just give me a little more time,” Ward said. “If you would just think about it, I would really appreciate it. … this is something that is historic for the community.”
The funeral home located at 207 Ave. A has been abandoned for approximately 30 years and the discussion of demolition has been brought before the city council three times since 2011.
In the first two instances, Ward was granted additional time to secure funding and to start repairs on the property.
Opelika resident Oscar Penn spoke in favor of saving the structure, while Councilwomen Patsy Jones and Tiffany Gibson-Pitts shared reasons behind their decisions to vote for demolition of the structure.
“That is a historic building in our community. That place represents significance to us,” Penn said. “If there is a possibility that you can understand what this means to us in our community… so that our children can go up and see some of the things that are right there in their neighborhood and understand the significance of these things.”
“I hear rumbles but I think people need to understand. I believe that this has happened (for) five years. We have tried to be very lienient with you. We have started (the process) and we’ve tabled it and we continue to do that,” Jones said.
“That is the one area that many people who live in that community complain about it and (say) that they’re tired of seeing. So, there is no way that I can keep holding off,” Gibson-Pitts said.
In other business, the council:
• approved the bid for demolition work at 3307 Arnold Ave
• approve requests for street closures by:
- Kitty Greene on Oct. 31
- Opelika Main Street on behalf of Griff Goods on Oct. 19
• approved a request by Interstate Hotels LLC, DBA Fairfield Inn and Suites for a beer and wine off-premise license
• approved a request by Opelika Interstate Hotels II LLC, DBA Hampton Inn and Suites for a retail beer wine off-premise license
• in a 3-to-2 split decision, voted to deny the request by Dreamz Lounge and Pool Hall LLC, Dba Dreamz for a lounge retail liquor Class 1 and beer on-premise license
• approved a bid for right-of-way vegetation management
• approved a bid for the Society Hill Road and Gateway Drive roundabout conversion
• approved expense reports from various departments
• approved an expense report from City Attorney Guy Gunter
• approved a resolution to designate city personal property as surplus and to authorize disposal of said property
• approved the purchase of several items for the Opelika Police Department including:
- X-Ray baggage scanner
- two-way radios
- in-car video recording systems
- 20 vests
- police equipment for police package automobiles
- seven 2020 Chevrolet Tahoes
• approved the purchase of a new Ford F450 for the fire department
• approved the purchase of a 2020 Peterbilt 520 Daycab W/ McNeilus 2849 Side Loader for OES
• approved a building permit refund for Camellia Custom Homes.
• approved the application for the 2019 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant
• approved a request by Verizon Wireless for a special-use permit for 2100 Tiger Town Parkway
• approved several annual appropriation contracts for fiscal year 2020 as follows:
- American Red Cross for $10,000
- Opelika Main Street for $20,000
- Storybook Farm for $6,000
- Keep Opelika Beautiful for $38,000
- Lee County. Youth Development Center for $35,000
- East Alabama Healthcare Authority d/b/a East Alabama EMS LLC, for $287,036 for operations to be paid in quarterly payments and $88,440 for the capital account to be paid out during the next two years
- Museum of East Alabama for $29,600
- Chamber of Commerce’s 20-Under 40 program for $2,500
- Arts Assoc. of East Alabama for 2020 Songwriters Festival for $2,500
- Southern Union State Community Foundation for $1,500
• approved a project agremeent with ALDOT for a bicycle and pedestrian masterplan
• approved a special appropriation to the Sportsplex for the annual Health Fair that was held for $3,000
• approved a $2,990,000 loan to Opelika Industrial Development Authority to purchse land for a new technology park
• approved an ordinance to amend zoning Ordinance and Map to rezone 1600 Toomer St. from R-3 to I-1
• introduced an ordinance to amend the city Code of Ordinances, Article II of Chapter 3.5 pertaining to Game Rooms (first reading)
• introduced an ordinance to amend the city Code of Ordinances Section 23-2 extending billiard room operating hours (first reading)
• Mayor Gary Fuller issued two proclamations:
- proclamation for National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
- proclamation for Jean Dean RIF’s – Run to Read Day – the Oct. 20 event will be the 30th and final Run to Read event for the organization.
• approved the reappointment of David Hudmon to the Board of Adjustment and Appeals for a term ending Oct. 1, 2023 and
• Fuller announced the recommendation of the appointment of Morgan Beadles to the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center advisory board for a term ending Dec. 31, 2024.