City wants to take ownership of old plant site

BROOKHAVEN — By the end of the year, the city of Brookhaven hopes to have taken full ownership of all buildings located on the former Stahl-Urban Manufacturing plant property.

The city currently owns the main plant building and one of two warehouses located on either side of the main building.

The owner of the other warehouse, Arthur Jeppe, will deed what he owns to the city at no cost. The transfer only awaits an appraisal.

Jeppe needs an appraisal for tax purposes, and the city also needs one, said City Attorney Joe Fernald.

“The city needs the appraisal to fix the value on our books,” Fernald said.

If all goes as planned, Fernald hopes to officially transfer the deed at the city board’s Dec. 20 meeting. Mayor Les Bumgarner offered a similar timeline and said he hopes the city takes control by Jan. 1, 2012.

Once the city takes the deed, it will have acquired all buildings on the former manufacturing site by donation.

M.C. “Bud” Urban Jr. donated the buildings currently owned by the city in 2006, while Bob Massengill was mayor. Urban died in 2009 and according to Bumgarner, Jeppe now controls some of the property formerly belonging to Urban.

Both the warehouse in Jeppe’s possession and the warehouse owned by the city are currently rented by Bert Carollo. For the immediate future, that will continue.

“The buildings will probably continue to be rented until the city can come up with something else to do there,” Bumgarner said.

The Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce collects the rent from the city’s warehouse.

“When we took possession of it, somehow the chamber got involved and (Carollo’s) been paying the chamber,” Bumgarner said.

Once the city owns all buildings on the property, Bumgarner plans to direct all rental fees to the city, he said.

According to the mayor, the rent from the buildings will offset the taxes on the property.

Chamber executive vice president Cliff Brumfield does not object and is not sure why the chamber currently collects the building’s rent.

“We had probably put some money into a city project and that was some kind of payback,” Brumfield said. “But it’s not a lot. It only pays about half our light bill here at the chamber. It will be good to see the city utilizing the city’s property.”

As to utilizing the property, Bumgarner sees potential in the storage capacity the Stahl-Urban buildings offer.

“(It’s) such good storage room and every city department is cramped for space,” Bumgarner said.

Bumgarner said city Christmas lights are stored in a shed and explained the importance of more space.

“Things last longer if you store them properly,” Bumgarner said.

Alderman Dorsey Cameron said city leaders have discussed other storage-related possibilities.

“We’ve talked about one particular thing, but we’re not sure if that’s going to be it,” Cameron said. “We’ve talked about relocating some of the city barn equipment.”

Cameron, in whose ward the Stahl-Urban site is located, also has some long-term ideas for the property.

“What I’ve always wanted to do is that we have a police precinct on the east side of town,” Cameron said. “We only have one station and that’s out on the highway.”

When the Godbold Transportation Center opened in August, discussion occurred then about putting a police precinct in that facility.

City leaders agree now, as they have for some time, that the main factory’s condition requires that it be torn down. The timetable for this remains undetermined, however.

In 2009, city leaders put aside plans to seek bids for the building’s demolition after plans with a salvage company fell through.

“There are concerns about how it would be torn down and what the cost would be,” Fernald said. “There are also some concerns about asbestos and things like that.”

The 2009 plan called for the building to be torn down in exchange for the building materials. Fernald and Bumgarner explained that the city still wants to obtain a similar deal rather than pay for the building’s demolition.

“There is quite a bit of stuff in there that is salvageable,” Fernald said. “There is some tremendous lumber.”

However, determining the building’s fate and the purpose of the property probably remains in the future, some city leaders said.

“That will be a question for another day,” Fernald said.

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