PHOTO: Pending approval by the Water Board and DeKalb County Board of Education at the first of the year, the county buses will be able to stay in Fort Payne for another 18 months. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
FORT PAYNE, Ala. — Last week, officials with the Fort Payne Water Works and the DeKalb County Board of Education (BOE) came to a preliminary agreement which would allow the county to continue using the bus garage in Fort Payne for another 18 months.
Pending approval by vote from both the water board and the school board, the deal would give the BOE more time to complete the new bus garage project.
Superintendent-Elect Dr. Jason Barnett negotiated directly with the city utility board, and explained the results of the meeting.
Recently, attorneys and officials with the City of Fort Payne agreed to postpone their pending court date with the county indefinitely. The city was seeking to evict the county from their bus garage located in Fort Payne, after the city water board had purchased the building, and the lease allowing the county to stay for six months had ran up.
“We are five months delinquent on our payments. They proposed paying $1500 a month for the months we owe since that was the terms of the original lease,” Dr. Barnett explained.
“We came to a preliminary agreement for the next 18 months, and rent that facility for $2500 a month beginning in January,” he said.
Originally, the City of Fort Payne was driving a hard bargain, demanding a large down payment and double the rent of what the county was originally paying during the initial six month lease.
“They were originally going to ask for $25,000 down and $3000 a month. In the spirit of working with us, they agreed to do 18 months, and dropped the $25,000 down (payment),” Barnett said.
In the coming year, the BOE will be building a new facility to be used to store and maintain the county’s bus fleet. Hopefully, the process won’t take the full eighteen months, and if it’s completed early, the county will have an avenue to end the lease and not continue paying rent to the City of Fort Payne.
“If we realize we are going to complete construction or we’re going to be able to move out, and we give them 30 days notice, we can terminate it (the lease) at that time,” explained Barnett.
Completing the new garage will also apparently now include a search for a new location, explained Dr. Barnett.
“The property we were going to build on is not suitable, and it’s not a bad piece of land by any means, but it’s just not suitable for our needs and what we’re going to do,” he said.
While an agreement between the two parties had been reached, Barnett stressed that the deal wasn’t final until both boards could vote on it at the first of next year.
“We can’t officially enter into a contract or change any contract until we have approval from both boards,” he explained.
“I feel like it was our best option,” Barnett added.