WATER VALLEY – City officials have declared as surplus a little less than three acres of land that once was the site of one of the area’s largest employers.
The 2.7 acre plot was home to the Illinois Central Railroad shop yard beginning in the middle of the 19th Century until the 1920s, when it was closed. More recently, the property was the subject of a contentious debate in 2007 that may have ended with the loss of another important business, Carothers Construction Com-pany.
At their regular “first Tuesday” meeting Sept. 2, aldermen voted to declare the property surplus after Mayor Larry Hart explained that Spring Hill North Missionary Baptist Church had approached the city about acquiring the property.
The church is located on land bordering Martin and Railroad Streets. The remainder of the property they are seeking to purchase is north of the church, between Railroad Street and Town Creek.
In October of 2007, Carothers officials asked city officials if the property could be purchased. At the time they were looking for a location to move from their office complex south of Water Valley on County Road 436.
At the same time, members of Spring Hill Church indicated they wanted to buy the property.
The request by Carothers set off two months of often-contentious debate among aldermen that ended at the December meeting with a split 2-2 vote on whether or not to sell the property to Carothers. Then Mayor Bill Norris broke the tie by voting for the sale.
As the debate went on, both state and district economic development officials called the deal a “no brainer” as the construction of a million dollar-plus, state of the art office complex would enhance the area. The company’s move from their location in the county would also bring jobs and taxes into the city.
Under state law, the city could obtain three quotes on the value, average them and then sell the property “if it would promote and foster the development and improvement of the community in which it is located. And, in this case, the economic or industrial welfare thereof.”
The three-estimate process had been used in January of 2000 to sell approximately three acres just north to the Mississippi Action For Progress, Inc. Headstart Program for $3430.00, according to board minutes.
After three months of wrangling, Mayor Norris read a letter from Carothers at the January 2008 meeting that stated the company was no longer interested in purchasing the property.
The letter, signed by Carothers Chairman Arnold Wayne Carothers stated: “In October we asked the city of Water Valley if the property on Railroad Street could be purchased as we were looking for a location to move from our present location. Due to the lapse in time our circumstances have changed and we are no longer interested in this property.”
Later, Carothers moved their operation to Lafayette County.
Now that the property has been declared as surplus, it will have to be advertised for bid. According to Mayor Hart, the winning bidder will be responsible for paying for the advertising and legal fees. “We will reserve the right to reject any bids,” he added.
The mayor noted that Spring Hill Church has plans for a youth activity center. “I think it would be a very good thing for them,” Hart said.