Jacksonville State University President Bill Meehan gave the council a report about the property deal, which would involve the exchange of historic properties and a parcel of land in Jacksonville.
He told the council and attendees that if the city approves the swap, from which the city would receive the old Eastwood School in exchange for the cotton mill, the university would improve and maintain the historic mill. The university will also give the city a wooded parcel of land at the northwest corner of Reynolds Street and Pelham Road North, if the council approves the swap.
“We’d make sure anything we have off campus is the same quality as what we have on campus,” Meehan said.
The president added that the university would open shuttered windows and take steps to preserve its historic character.
“That’s just what I wanted to hear,” said Council Woman Sandra Sudduth.
Meehan’s remarks about the university’s plan to improve the building, where it wants to house its maintenance operations, was balanced by his statement that JSU doesn’t currently have the money to begin making improvements.
In a formal council meeting that
followed the work session, four residents stood to speak about the historic properties. Marcus Reid, speaking on behalf of residents who want to preserve the Eastwood School, said he favors the swap.
Suzanne Cunningham, a Jacksonville resident, stood to say that she is concerned about the fate of the old mill because Meehan said he doesn’t know when the money will be available to begin working on the mill.
Some residents at the meeting said they hoped that a separate issue, the possibility of establishing historic preservation committee, would be considered Monday. It was delayed because the council didn’t have time for discussion on the commission this week, said Council President Mark Jones.
“Unless we felt good about the fact that it might be approved, I’d hate to put it on the agenda and have it voted down, if it’s something the council wants to do,” Jones said of putting the matter to a vote in a formal council meeting.
Attendee Gail DeParma said that the council is waiting too long because many grant cycles for historical preservation funds close this spring, and the historic preservation committee is key in securing those grants.
Last week, DeParma requested the preservation commission issue be placed on the work session agenda for Monday. She said residents have already taken steps necessary to establish the commission, adding that the city is stifling some of the progress some residents would like to make.
“All we need is approval and we’re ready to go,” DeParma said.
Staff Writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.