Interested citizens crammed the meeting room of the Village of Hodge Administration Building on Tuesday to learn that the Town Council of Willard Willis, Steve Fox, and Martha Buchan will not accept the offer of a donation of the Hodge Shopping Center – AGAIN.
Two weeks ago during their regularly scheduled meeting the three members of the Town Council, refused to accept the offer made by Chuck Allen to give donate the Shopping Center to the Village along with $300,000.00.The money was in consideration of what it was estimated to cost for Asbestos abatement of the floors ($125,000.00) and to have the structure torn down ($175,000.00. The second passing of the opportunity came about due to a failure for a motion to be made that would reconsider the previous act.
The session began with Hodge Mayor, Gerald Palmer explaining that the reason that the special session had been called was because of all the phone calls received once it was learned that Allen had contacted the three remaining businesses in the shopping center to let them know they had to vacate the premises by January 15th.
“I think that we need to give this another look,” said Palmer. “I have been speaking with North Delta Regional Planning Authority President Hal Mims about them helping us and Dollar General and Farm Bureau have expressed interest in locating on the property.”
Several questions followed such as: What would be the chances of getting a grocery store at the location? Is it possible to keep the three businesses open and tear down the rest of the structure? How much would insurance cost the Village? The responses to these and more gave those in attendance the feeling that it would be best to take Allen up on his offer.
“It boils down to do we take the risk or not?” summarized Palmer.
When the request was made of the Council members for comment a different slant emerged.
After Willard Willis said he had no comment, Steve Fox took the floor. He immediately directed his response toward Palmer.
“You need to tell these people the whole story and what you told us last time we met,” said Fox. “The first thing I said at the meeting was that we needed a grocery store. You said we didn’t have enough residents to support one. You said the back wall of the building where the three businesses are still operating was unstable and unsafe. You told us that we would be responsible for any injury on the property if we took possession.”
Fox was then asked what his opinion was about accepting the donation.
“There is nothing more I would like than for us to be able to have the shopping center again but I think we would be stepping into a hole f we take this and we are going to go down hard. The town could get seriously hurt financially,” Fox replied. “The Mayor says that we can abate the Asbestos and take down the building for the $300,000.00. What about the water, gas, and sewer lines underneath the slab? All of those would have to be addressed. Where is the money going to come from for that? I am also concerned that if we do take the property what’s to say the businesses will stay there? I’m already hearing about one that says they are going to move regardless of what is done.
Martha Buchan then spoke.
“This was thrown at us two weeks ago. What we heard was so many uncertainties and no definite answers regarding financial stability. It is my opinion that we shouldn’t be interested in getting into the real estate business but focusing on dealing with the running of the town’s operations,” said Buchans. “Really we shouldn’t even be having this meeting as we have voted on this already. This is a meeting that should have been held with Chuck Allen.”
It was then that Mayor Palmer asked the council if anyone wanted to make a motion to reconsider the action from the meeting before and make a new motion to accept Allen’s offer? The silence spoke volumes.
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