The Cleburne County Commission approved transferring the old Emergency Management Agency building on Davenport Drive to the Board of Education at the June meeting with the stipulation that the board handle all the legal work associated with the transfer.
The board members hired Birmingham attorney Charles Beavers to do the title search on the property, which they intend to use as a new central office.
Superintendent Claire Dryden said at the board’s meeting on Monday that Beavers had informed her that the county didn’t own the building.
County property records show that the Farmers Market Authority, a state agency that promotes and advocates for farmers markets and direct market farmers, has owned the property since 1981.
The 6.5 acre property was used in the 1980s as a farmers market and hosted events such as rodeos, said Cleburne County Revenue Commissioner Joyce Fuller. Fuller remembers hosting a fundraiser for a volunteer fire department in the old market pavilion in the late 1980s, she said.
Don Wambles, director of the authority, said the state agency has been the target of drastic budget cuts over the last several years. It has gotten to the point that the agency can no longer continue to serve its clients well. So, the agency is being absorbed into the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries as of Aug. 1, Wambles said.
County Administrator Steve Swafford said Tuesday morning it would be clearer for everyone if the ownership of the property could be solved before Aug. 1.
Wambles said Cleburne County transferred the property to the authority as part of a standard lease agreement in 1981. In a standard lease agreement, the authority built facilities on the property for the market and then the county or municipality leased them until the balance was paid. It was really a financing arrangement, Wambles said. The leases lasted anywhere from 10 to 20 years, Wambles said. Cleburne County’s was a 20-year lease, he added.
But during that time, the county stopped using the property for a farmers market. It built the EMA building on the site of the pavilion in 1991 and renovated it in 1994, according to property tax records. Swafford though said the building was built in 1994.
After some research, Wambles said he found the authority deeded the property back to the county on Mar. 9, 2008, Wambles said.
“Cleburne County owns it free and clear,” Wambles said. “The county just needs to record the deed.” Swafford said Tuesday afternoon the paperwork “just fell through the crack somehow.”
But he took care of that on Tuesday and a copy of the deed was on its way to Beavers, Swafford said. The county cannot record the deed with a copy, said Vanessa Ivey, from the probate office. Ivey said when the county can get the original deed to the office, she will record it.
The transfer will go on and the Board of Education can move into their new offices as planned, he added.
Dryden said the administration hopes to move into their new quarters after setting up phone and computer systems, probably during the fall break in October.