By Bill Short
The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has adopted a resolution authorizing the city to purchase and demolish a combination of buildings on South Street.
Board members took the action during their March 13 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Bethany Huffman and seconded by Alderman Don Lowry. The motion was passed by a 6-1 vote, with Alderman Frankie Dakin dissenting.
The resolution states that the city is working to improve “community livability” by the elimination of “blight, under-maintained and unsightly structures,” as well as requiring properties and grounds to be in compliance with the Municipal Code.
Two individuals who own all but one building in a section south of Navy Road between Church and C streets have agreed to sell their properties to the city, and the other property owner supports clearing and improving the area.
The city will purchase the property at 5025 South St. from Tom Hall for $110,000 and at 5034 South St. from Dorothy Pitts for $70,000. The resolution authorizes City Manager Ed Haley to demolish all buildings on those two parcels.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Alderman Mike Caruthers asked whether the city will give the businesses still in those buildings “some type of notice” to move. While noting that there is “only one tenant” left, Haley said everyone was given 90 days.
Dakin said the board should not be talking about demolition prior to a comprehensive examination of that area as it relates to Phase II of the Navy Road Streetscape project, the Discovery Nature Park and some of the other small business activity in the historic downtown area.
Recalling that, a number of years ago, a group of residents organized and developed plans for Old Town, Dakin said they would appreciate the board at least taking “a creative look” at that area.
“I’m not saying that demolishing these buildings isn’t the right thing to do,” he noted. “I’m just saying that I have not seen enough evidence that that’s the case.”
Haley called it a “blighted” area and a “safety hazard,” because vehicles cannot get in and out of it. He also noted that it needs to be brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“So, if you don’t want those buildings torn down,” he said, “don’t buy them.”
Dakin said he would hate for the board to demolish buildings that could potentially be “saved and used effectively” in that area. But Alderman Thomas McGhee said it is his understanding that the buildings do not have “real potential.”
“In that area,” he noted, “the land is worth more than the buildings.”
Alderman Al Bell, a former building inspector for the city, said the buildings need to “come down.”
“I’ve been in all of them many times,” he noted, “and they’re beyond repair.”
Caruthers said he has talked with City Engineer Jason Dixon about preparing an “up-to-date” plan for what Millington will look like 10 years from now.
Huffman said she would encourage the Old Town group to either begin meeting again or come back before the board.
“If they are active in wanting to have a Master Plan for that area,” she said, “I think that needs to be presented as part of this. So, perhaps we should have those people contact Jason.”
Huffman said part of the reason why the board has reached this point is that the recommendations from the Old Town group were not implemented by many of the property owners there, because they did not want to invest the money.
“Short of that,” she concluded, “all we could do is ask them to bring it up to code. If they’re not going to, then we have to deal with the hazard that goes with it.”
By Bill Short