City votes to purchase old Kmart building
By By Sherry Digmon
Advance Staff Writer
The Atmore City Council voted Monday night to purchase the old Kmart building on Lindbergh Avenue.
It may be the first step in a series of events that could dramatically change the course of Atmore and the Highway 21/I65 connection.
Representatives of the City of Atmore, the Industrial Development Board and Jefferson Davis Community College have discussed moving the JDCC campus into the Kmart building.
To do this, the college would use money from the sale of its current facility and acreage to the city.
Bob Jones, chairman of the Industrial Development Board, calls it a win-win situation. He stated at Monday's meeting, in fact, that the project would not have gotten this far had it not been beneficial for all parties.
Bradley Byrne, a member of the State Board of Education, and Dr. Susan McBride, president of Jefferson Davis Community College, have been active participants in the process, according to Jones.
No one representing the college was at the meeting. While not speaking for the college, Jones did relate that JDCC officials have said they want to improve the college's service to the community as well as improve the college's financial situation.
Jones said the college needs about 30,000 square feet, and the Kmart building has about 44,000 square feet.
Owens said Tuesday that if the project proceeds and JDCC does agree to sell the existing facility to the city, both deals may be packaged into one bond issue.
Councilman John Watkins said the move is in keeping with other projects that are in the discussion stage – a downtown historic district and a bypass around the city. He also mentioned the boost to the economy that having the campus in Atmore would bring.
Watkins said that anything the council does now will be perceived as being done for "political expediency," but added that his vote would not be influenced by "trying to save a $2 a year job."
Jones said he had received "very positive feedback" since an article about the proposal appeared in the Sunday edition of The Atmore Advance.
Councilman Jerry Gehman expressed his concern with the disposition of the building if the deal with the college does not materialize.
The council voted unanimously to proceed with the purchase of the old Kmart building.