The City of Huntsville did not receive a $200,000 state grant to begin repairs of the Basham building downtown, Mayor Darrell Trahan told the city council Monday night.
Huntsville had applied for an economic development grant in hopes of using the money to bring utilities up to code in the century-old building. Ultimately, plans were to make the building into a community center, museum and other uses.
“We received a letter saying that we did not receive the $200,000 grant that we had applied for [for] the Basham building,” Trahan told the council.
Trahan after Monday’s meeting said the state wrote that “they had received a great number of applications, many projects that were worthwhile, and ours was not selected.”
As for the building, Trahan said “It’s sitting there collecting dust right now.”
Trahan announced at a previous meeting that a company had approached him about buying the building and a number of acres of land currently owned by the Huntsville School District. Monday, Trahan said he has had no further contact with the unnamed company.
The council did approve a $100,000 matching grant application for a splash pad behind the Basham building, located on Polk Square. Trahan has pushed for the pad to be there, while others have wanted it to be at Mitchusson Park or perhaps behind the Madison County Library.
“If we want to move it to Mitchusson, we have to start over and we’re never going to get the funding because people can’t get there,” Trahan told the council. “The reason why we’re going to end up getting the funding for the splash pad, and I think we will this time around, is because of the location.
“That’s the only way ... because it will anchor downtown,” he said. “That makes it huge. We’ve got 27 parking spaces available right here, another 30 here [pointing across the street] and another 20-something over there, and that doesn’t take anything off the square.”
Trahan said a splash pad downtown would benefit many.
“The square needs something to bring people down here,” he said. “We’re hoping the [wayfinding] signage will help. That’s why I want to make it a priority. We need to get some of those cars off that bypass. I guarantee if there’s a splash pad here, we’re going to get a whole bunch of those cars off that bypass.”
Putting the pad downtown is practical for those who will use it, he said.
“I want it to be available to kids on foot,” Trahan said. “So anybody who lives here in town can walk to that location. I would never send my 12-year-old to walk to Mitchusson. I just do not think that would be a good idea. There’s a lot of highway between here and there.”
Madison County’s only public swimming pool at Withrow Springs State Park was closed by the state this summer. The grant application is due in August with hearings scheduled for October. The council approved 7-0 a motion to apply for the $100,000 matching grant.
If approved, Trahan said the city’s part of the matching grant would come from in-kind labor and cash from unappropriated funds and the park commission.
“My goal is to build it for a lot less than that, so the actual cash output by the city is minimized,” Trahan said following Monday’s meeting.
In other business Monday, the council:
• Heard from Water Department Director Larry Garrett, who said land has been secured for a new pump station to be built on Governor’s Hill.
Garrett said, “Engineers are telling me the funding’s in place” for new water tank. Funding would come from a 60/40 grant, where 60 percent of the project cost of about $1 million would be covered, leaving the remaining 40 percent to be paid for by the Huntsville Water Board.
Garrett also said the “Cherokee and Osage Indian tribes have requested that we do a cultural resource survey” before moving forward with the new tank. Garrett said Flat Earth Archaeology in Cabot will do the survey this week, then turn over the results to the tribes.
Garrett was told “it could be 30 days, 60 days or 90 days” before the tribes sign off on the project.
• Heard from Alice Jackson who has created a “Girls Night Out” event in downtown Huntsville. The event, which is open to the entire family, is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 23.
Participants will check in at the Emporium for a map and information. The event will include not only after-hour shopping, but a scavenger hunt, Huntsville history, dining and prizes.
“One group I talked to was some for the shop owners around town,” Jackson told the council. “A concern that they had was the lack of foot traffic that comes through their shops and the lack of sales that they’ve been making, especially this year. And I’ve had several of them tell me ‘This is my last year here if things don’t change.’ That scares me to hear that, especially around the square when I hear shop owners say ‘this is it for me.’”
Jackson said there will be shuttle service available from the Huntsville airport if someone wants to fly in for the event.
Jackson said, “Men will be welcome that night.” She hopes the event will have “some old-fashioned visiting, learning a little history and just trying o get some focus on our town.”
Jackson added, “Once we get them here we can get them to fall in love with us and maybe come back and we can start some business.”
• Tabled until next month the adoption of a drainage manual put forth by the Planning Commission. Councilor Debra Shinn led a discussion as to who in the city will enforce the manual at future building sites and with city projects.
• Heard from two residents about code enforcement in the city.
Tom Shepherd, who lives on Pump Station Road, said surrounding properties are full of junked cars, chickens that run wild and trash bags.
“10 years ago I was proud of Huntsville. I’m not proud of it now,” he told the council.
Last month the issue of code enforcement was turned over to the Huntsville Police Department. Chief Todd Thomas told Shepherd, “They will be dealt with. We’ve got the complaints and they will be dealt with. I promise you they will be taken care of.”
Bonnie Salsbury addressed the council about aggressive dogs on Cain Avenue. She said “the dogs come down and charge after me and my dogs. I’ve hit them with a pellet gun, I’ve hit them with a stun gun. They still continue to come back.”
Salsbury said she is training service dogs, and is afraid the bigger, aggressive dogs will harm or kill one of her own.
“If those dogs kill one of my dogs, there’s not going to be any mercy for those people down there or their dogs, because I’m a redhead and I’ve got a temper. I’ll go down there and pound the living tar out of them with my cane if I have to.”
Salsbury said the dogs previously were picked up only to be returned to the owners. City ordinance says aggressive dogs must be removed from the city and not allowed back.
Thomas said, “We took this over, all these ordinances, the police department took them over last month. They will be dealt with. I promise you. What went on prior to that, that was animal control, that wasn’t the police department. You call us every single time you see those dogs. What happened before won’t be happening any more.”