As council moves forward with land deal, residents voice opposition to moving school
by Laura Gaddy
Feb 25, 2014 | 4525 views |  0 comments | 97 97 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Kitty Stone Elementary teacher leaves the school at the end of the day. The city is looking into building a new school.  (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
A Kitty Stone Elementary teacher leaves the school at the end of the day. The city is looking into building a new school. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
JACKSONVILLE -- The City Council will have at least one more chance to decide whether it will allow the Board of Education to build an elementary school on land near George Douthit Drive.

At a called meeting last week, the council gave Mayor Johnny Smith the authority to negotiate a deal with the school system concerning 20 acres of city-owned land. He said at Monday’s meeting that the council will decide by vote next month if it wants to give the mayor the authority to deed the land to the school system.

"It's a difficult decision," Council President Mark Jones said. "I have had plenty of people who have told me they are for this, but it's obvious that there are plenty of people who are against it."

On Wednesday, the schools requested 31 acres of land in a letter. Later that day, during a meeting called to go into executive session on an unrelated matter, the council voted to allow the mayor to negotiate with the schools for the land.

About 50 residents filled the council chambers for Monday’s meeting. Some came in response to the council's vote last week, which caught several residents off guard.

"There have been a lot of really hurt feelings about the vote on Wednesday," said Rena Comisac, a Jacksonville business owner. "That's why I think a lot of people are here."

For two years, the school board discussed building a new school, and members told residents they were considering moving Kitty Stone Elementary School. Several residents said at public meetings that they would oppose moving the school, but in January, the board voted to move the school to city-owned property near George Douthit Drive.

Many residents responded by urging the council to withhold the land.

Next month, council members expect to vote on whether to declare the 20-acre site surplus property and whether to give Smith permission to deed the land to the schools.

Before those votes can happen, the mayor must finalize the land deal with the school district, and the schools must get an opinion from their architects regarding the size of land needed to build the school, Smith said.

If the city decides to give the property to the school board, it may donate the land, sell it or conduct a land swap.

Before Monday’s meeting ended, more than six residents stood to speak against the relocation of the school.

Council members said residents who support moving the school have contacted them, but added that those people aren’t showing up at the meetings.

At least one of the residents who spoke Monday, Klaus Duncan, told the council he was displeased with their Wednesday vote and left the council with a warning regarding its next election.

"Many of you have lost our trust," Duncan said.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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