City officials were unable to make a decision Tuesday night when it came to purchasing the Social Security building as the new home for McMinnville Police Department.
An inability to make a decision – coupled with complaints from local residents – ended with the offer being withdrawn by property owner Jerry Williamson.
“Apparently, this is not going to work,” said Williamson. “I would like to withdraw my offer to the city at this time. I didn’t want to cause this. It’s just not worth it.”
The property that was under consideration is located across from Walmart and is currently being used as the Social Security office. At a price of $650,000, the deal included building a 1,200-square-foot courtroom, more restrooms, and paving the parking lot.
The beginning of the end began when Building and Grounds Committee members met to consider the offer Tuesday after touring the property, but were unable to reach a consensus between buying it or renovating the Blue Building, a property the city already owns, and moving the department back there. The police department had been located at the Blue Building for decades before moving to Red Road in 2009.
On the committee are Aldermen Junior Medley, Rick Barnes and Billy Wood. While Medley voiced his decision to purchase the Williamson property, Barnes was in favor of renovating the Blue Building.
“I move that we renovate the Blue Building for the police department,” said Barnes.
The motion failed due to lack of a second.
Wood, who would have been the deciding vote on the three-member committee, refused to vote. He is part owner of the property where the police department currently resides.
“When it comes to this particular issue, I will have to abstain from the vote,” said Wood. “I can express my opinion though. People think fondly of the Blue Building. If you are going to spend $1 million, it would make sense to spent it on property you’ve got.”
With Medley and Barnes unable to agree and Wood’s view not helping to unlock the stalemate, Medley said the issue should be sent to the full board. However, no motion was made.
“This board, obviously, is incapable of making a decision,” Medley said. “We’ve been talking about this for two years, since the day I got here. I would rather send this to the full board, but that’s not happening.”
Alderman Clair Cochran recommended the committee delay discussing the situation until after the November election and new committee members can be assigned.
“With the election coming up, the committees will be shuffled,” she said. “The mayor can re-appoint Mr. Wood so there is not a conflict of interest.”
The mayor has the authority to change members of committees around during his term, as well as after elections to assign new members on the board to specific committees.
While officials appeared unable to decide, local residents were more decisive. Connie Smith, who lives close to the Williamson property, says the majority of people she has spoken to do not want the police department in their neighborhood.
“About 80 percent don’t want it there because it is already difficult to get out of North Hills Drive onto Old Smithville Highway,” said Smith. “Most are of the opinion the department should move back to the Blue Building.”
Joe Shelton Jr., says he feels officials dismissed several offers that were made before Williamson’s offer without giving them genuine consideration, which included his offer, and they are not putting enough thought into the Williamson property.
“I would like for someone to tell me that my property on Sparta Street doesn’t best any property that’s around, as far as location, size, the whole nine yards,” Shelton said. “Regardless of whether you buy our property or someone else’s property, buying a piece of property that you will outgrow as soon as you move in just seems ludicrous.”
After the meeting, Medley denied the allegation that prior offers received by the city were rejected without consideration.
“We looked at each offer that came into the city,” Medley said. “None of them were as good as the Williamson offer. It was the best offer financially, as well as in location, size and the condition of the building. I want you to quote me on that.”
When questioned why he singled out the “board” as unable to make a decision and why he did not vote to send the measure to the full board for its consideration, Medley said he was asked not to send it.
“I was asked not to send it to the board by the mayor,” said Medley. “Maybe the next board will be able to make a decision. This one can’t. I just don’t know why it can’t.”
Rone denies saying not to send the matter to the full board.
“I asked Junior what he thought was going to happen with him and Rick on different sides of this thing and Billy not voting,” Rone said. “He mentioned sending it to the board. I told him I don’t think it wouldn’t do any good to send it to the board. This is a dead issue in my opinion.”
Medley says he wanted to buy Williamson’s property because he felt board members did not want to build a new facility or buy a building that needed renovation.
“This building was almost turn-key ready,” Medley said. “What needed to be done, Jerry was willing to do for us. I thought that’s what they wanted. They rejected ideas to build a new facility or renovate an existing building. What’s left, if not buy a property that’s ready for the department to move into?”
Until a decision can be reached, McMinnville Police Department will remain on Red Road.