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JDCC's move to vacant Kmart building falls through

By By SHERRY DIGMON
Advance Staff Writer
The old Kmart building in Atmore will remain just that – the old Kmart building, at least for the time being.
Efforts to relocate the Atmore campus of Jefferson Davis Community College to the building on Lindberg Avenue were unsuccessful, Mayor Rodney Owens announced Monday morning, ending several months of work on the project.
In April, the Atmore City Council purchased the building to make it available to JDCC. If the campus relocated, the city would buy the college's facility and acreage at the interstate for commercial development.
The proposal was designed to give the college greater exposure and to generate revenue needed to expand programs, and to enable the city to take advantage of the interstate location.
But that didn't happen.
The reversionary clause states that if the property where the college is currently located is not used for education, ownership reverts back to the Alabama Department of Corrections.
Owens had received verbal assurance from the Alabama Development Office that the state agencies involved were willing to forego action on the clause. However, the most recent conversations with Michael Haley, commissioner of the Department of Corrections, indicated that the department is not willing to forgive the clause, Owens said.
Owens added that a change in personnel on the state level may also have accounted for the change in commitment.
Byrne said he thought the governor was supportive of such projects that foster economic rural development.
Turning to JDCC President Dr. Susan McBride, Owens said the college always has the option of using another location and that the city would certainly welcome the college to Atmore.
Dr. McBride said the administration considers the campus at the interstate as part of Atmore, adding that the administration's focus remains on expanding services in Atmore, despite the fact that the campus is not moving from its current location.
Dr. McBride reported that Atmore's enrollment is improving.
The meeting turned to projects that would be mutually beneficial to the college and the city.
Bob Jones, chairman of the Atmore Industrial Development Board, said he has had an ongoing dialogue with Conecuh and Monroe counties on such a project. He asked Dr. McBride how that project could be facilitated.
Jones said he also has been in touch with Carl Moore, dean of the college of business at the University of South Alabama, who is interested in offering classes here.
Dr. McBride was open to the idea of providing space for USA classes. She also said the administration will begin looking into using Escambia County High School classrooms for dual enrollment classes. Jones suggested that the Lions Community Center might also be an option.
Although relocating the campus to Atmore didn't materialize, Owens did not feel the project was at all a failure.
While Jones agreed, he also said two entities lost out in the process.
Dr. McBride restated her commitment.
Also in attendance were Howard Shell, mayor-elect; Michele Gerlach, JDCC dual enrollment specialist; Jim Johnson, member of the Industrial Development Board; and Humphrey Shuford, JDCC dean of adult and technical education.