Board votes to pursue purchasing vacant property adjacent to Kroger

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted last week to pursue the possibility of purchasing vacant property at 7355 Highway 64 adjacent to Kroger.
Board members took the action Thursday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Billy Ray Morris and seconded by Alderman Kelly Rector. The motion was passed by a 3-1 vote, with Alderman Karl Chambless dissenting.
Morris has said the property, owned by Bancorp South, consists of 9.12 acres and has “all the amenities.” It is being offered for sale at $550,000.
“If anybody knows anything about commercial real estate,” he said last month, “this is one heck of a deal. There’s no telling what kind of jobs we could bring in here if we get this going.”
Morris has noted that it could be a future location for Oakland Town Hall, as well as the police and fire departments.
“This property is not going to last that long at this price,” he said, “and I think we need to move forward on it.”
Mayor Chris Goodman has expressed concerned that, if the board buys the property, it will be losing tax dollars from any business that might locate there. He has also wondered whether the property is an “appropriate place” to construct a new Town Hall.
The mayor has said the property was initially prepared for a development.
“Then, the economy crashed, and the developer went bankrupt,” he recalled. “So, it went back to Bancorp South. I know they’ve got a couple of people looking at it at this moment.”
Goodman said the board must first determine how it will finance the purchase and what that amount will need to be.
“At this point,” he said, “I would not recommend that the board take the full $550,000 out of the General Fund, because that would lower it quite a bit.”
Morris has said that, because Alderman John Troncone is in “the banking business,” he could give the board “some kind of idea” about financing the purchase.
Goodman said he still has a concern about locating the Town Hall on the “busiest road in the heart” of Oakland. He noted that he has been “contacted twice” about the Mullins property, which is located next-door to the existing Town Hall.
“If we’re looking at creating a Master Plan,” he said, “we really need to think about how we’re laying things out and where we’re putting them.”
Rector said it is his understanding that there are “plenty of grants” available to construct a Town Hall, police or fire department, but they are only awarded for undeveloped property. He believes a vacant piece of property is the “best way to go.”
“However, I don’t really know if this is the right property,” he said. “I would like to at least hear what it’s going to cost and move forward with that process.”
Chambless cited the 17 acres on Chickasaw Ridge Drive that are currently owned by the town. He also said many grants that might be suitable are “mandated” by whether the town would qualify for them based on its “income levels.”
“It would necessitate taking on bond issue or debt,” he concluded. “So, I would be very hesitant to approve that at this point in time when we have other resources.”