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County may have found Glen Alpine solution (new home)

The Glen Alpine Convenience Center in Clinton has been a source of contention between Anderson County and the City of Clinton for at least 30 years, but Commissioners have recently made a motion that could put an end to the years-long debate between Anderson County and City of Clinton officials.

During the Anderson County Commission meeting Monday, Oct. 16, Commission approved to enter into a sales contract with Prime Resource LLC to purchase 17.08 acres of land on Norris Freeway. The land would be used for the relocation of the Glen Alpine Convenience Center and possibly as a site for a Materials Recovery Recycling Center.

Present during the meeting were a number of Clinton City officials, including Clinton Mayor Burton and City Manager Roger Houck.

Discussion on the convenience center was addressed during the Solid Waste Advisory committee report.

Anderson County Commissioner Robert McKamey made the motion to recommend County Commission proceed with the purchase of the 17.08 acre tract of land off Norris Freeway, and apprised Commissioners the total purchase cost is $375,000.

McKamey reported that Anderson County Law Director Jay Yeager had already drawn up a sales contract with Prime Resource for the land purchase and that County Commission would be responsible for determining what the county could do with the remaining property not being used by the convenience center and materials recovery site.

Initially, Commission decided to unanimously pass McKamey’s motion to proceed with the contract, but the discussion that followed the motion approval indicated that many Commissioners still had reservations about entering into the sales contract.

Dist. 2 Commissioner Steve Emert stated he was “all for moving the convenience center,” but said he was concerned about moving forward with a sales contract on a major purchase without first knowing more about what the specific costs would be to the county.

“I haven’t heard any discussion about money. How much is this going to cost? I’m for moving it but I was going to make a motion that it be deferred back to Operations Committee for more discussion once we get all information that is needed about this because I’ve not heard any numbers,” Emert said. “My other concern is, why has the property sat for so long? It had to be an issue with the power lines that are up there now.”

City of Clinton Mayor Scott Burton, who was present for the meeting, addressed Commissioners by urging them to keep in mind it is an opportunity that would be a win-win outcome for county and city, and taxpayers.

Said Burton, “We’ve had the opportunity to take care of two issues that have been lingering in this area for 30 to 40 years, one being the Magnet Mills Building, and the second being the convenience center. Hopefully we’ll have some type of solution with that also. I think everybody understands the millions of dollars of tax money in that strip of land [referring to the 17.08 acres].”

A major concern among Commissioners was what the cost would be to put in a road to access the convenience and recycling center.

Continued Emert, “I haven’t seen any site plans, or anything about road construction, which is typically very expensive. We’re telling taxpayers we’re going to buy it without first looking at any paperwork. I don’t think that is a wise decision at all.”

Commissioner Phil Warfield echoed Emert’s concerns about the road.

“A big concern I have is what it’s going to cost to put in a road,” Warfield said.

McKamey responded that the county already has $852,000 in funds committed and available to spend toward this project.

“Since we [Commission] voted ‘yes’ on this before we really started to discuss it I would like to make a motion that we refer this to the Operations Committee for more discussion to find out what the cost will be to put a road in there,” said Warfield. “This piece of property we are looking at is one we looked at two or three years ago so it’s not a new piece of property. Two years ago the price to buy it was about $500,000, so the $375,000 is a significant drop in price and it does sound like a good deal. I’m not against it.”

Commission voted 10 to 6 to defer discussion on this sales purchase to Operations Committee to give the Solid Waste Advisory Board more time to find out specific costs.

Commissioners voting “yes” to approve the motion were Hitchcock, Smallridge, Vowell, Wandell, Scott, Isbel, Yager, Emert, Creasey, and Warfield. Commissioners Alderson, McKamey, Fritts, Meredith, White, and Mead voted “no,” not to defer it.

“We are the bankers of the county. It’s our obligation to spend that money as if we were the bankers lending for the project. I don’t believe anyone could get a loan without including more information,” opined Commissioner Whitey Hitchcock.

Commissioner Steve Mead pointed out that although he agreed it would be wise of county officials to look at all the information before making a decision, the issue is time sensitive and needs to be as little delays in moving it forward as possible.

“The real issue is can we build something that will work for us with the money we have available at this site? I think we’re getting a pretty good price on it so I don’t think we want to delay too much. I don’t want to wait around until other obstacles start appearing. We ought to be careful about taking up too much time,” cautioned Mead.

McKamey reminded Commissioners that in the sales agreement Yeager had already drawn up there is a retainer clause in the agreement that states the county can hold the property for $1,000. Retaining the property for $1,000 would keep other interested buyers from buying the property and allow the county some time to make a decision.

The $1,000 to retain the property would most likely come out of the Solid Waste Budget, so the cost to hold it would not be an issue, McKamey said.

“We need to put a hold on that property to make sure we don’t lose it,” he said.

He then made a motion to have the law director proceed with the sales agreement contingent on whatever county and city officials decide to do at their meeting Monday, Oct. 23, to discuss the purchase in more detail.

Yeager advised Commission that if they chose to retain the property for $1,000, the county would not have to close on the deal until the first of the year, and that the retainer fee would lock the property down until then.

Commissioner McKamey made a second motion, a separate one, to approve having the county initiate a sales contract with Prime Resource with a $1,000 retainer.

Commission approved the motion.