BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (August 1) — The Dresden Board heard an update regarding the status of negotiations with a property owner to purchase a small portion of a lot needed for the purpose of installing a sewer line to provide utility service for the city’s municipal complex planned for the downtown area, as well as other adjacent buildings. The board also discussed the fairest way to calculate the cost charged to property owners for demolition and cleanup of their buildings when it met for its regular session Monday evening at the McWherter Civic Center.
Property Purchase and Debris Removal
The December 10, 2021, tornado destroyed Dresden’s city hall, police department and fire department, which were all located adjacent to one another on the city block south of the Weakley County Court Square. After nearby properties were donated, it became possible for all of these government offices to be located underneath a single roof in a municipal complex. It also allows for having common areas that could be shared by the different departments as needed. Additionally, the complex would contain a safe room for use by the public in the event of a severe storm event.
Mayor Jeff Washburn reported negotiations are underway concerning purchasing a small section of property off the back of a lot owned by Tony E. Winstead and his wife, Inju Winstead, which was the former location of the Majestic Restaurant that stood on the corner of South Wilson Street and Main Street. The small, “dog leg” shaped property, which is approximately 20 feet wide by 38 feet long, is needed in order to run a sewer line from South Wilson Street to the site of a municipal complex now in the planning stages.
Unless the city can procure the property, or at least obtain a permanent easement to provide ingress and egress for the installation of a sewer line, the project may remain stalled.
Mayor Washburn said, “I have been in contact with Mr. Winstead and he asked me to contact his daughter, Tiana, and I have done so. She asked me to mail her the documents, which I have done. However, I have not received a response from her yet.”
A member of the audience, who announced he had spoken to Tiana, indicated she stated the property is owned by her parents, Tony and Inju Winstead, and they are the sole decision-makers, therefore, she has decided she does not want to be involved. Additionally, he stated that Mr. Winstead has said he does not believe he should have to pay the amount he was billed, because he could have gotten it done cheaper through another contractor. However, Winstead indicated he is still open to selling the dog-leg portion of land to the city. If there are any more questions, Winstead asked the city to talk to his attorney, Langdon S. Unger, Jr. of Martin.
Mayor Washburn stated the attorney could help move things along by serving as a mediator between the two parties and to give clarity to all concerned. Once the available land is known, the architect can adjust the plans for the municipal complex to fit the footprint of the city’s property. The mayor added that he is hopeful construction could get underway in October.
“I told him I would recommend that the city board forgive his cost for the demolition of the Majestic Restaurant, if he was so inclined, providing he would deed that piece of property to us,” Mayor Washburn said.
“We also received a letter from Mr. Winstead’s attorney, stating he shouldn’t have to pay for the demolition of his building, and this is one way he wouldn’t have to do that, through this offer. We are communicating with him with offers and counter-offers.” The mayor noted, if an agreement is reached, he will bring it to the board for its consideration.
Alderwoman Sandra Klutts asked how much was charged to demolish the Majestic Restaurant. Mayor Washburn stated it was about $24,000.
“There is some dispute about what those amounts (demolition costs) should be, by Dickie Hutcherson, Keely Wilson Nanney, and Mr. Winstead,” Mayor Washburn said. He explained that the demolition costs should have included city sidewalks in the computations, which would bring the cost of demolition down for the property owners. The total cost of demolition for the entire block, including the sidewalks, which encompasses approximately a 55,000 square-foot-area was $129,000. Hutcherson’s calculation was 61,000 square feet, according to Washburn. The mayor stated the building costs for each property was below $25,000.
On a motion by Alderman Gwin Anderson, the board voted unanimously to take the total cost for demolishing and hauling off the debris, including city sidewalks, at $129,000, and divide it by the total square footage of the entire area to determine the cost per square foot, then multiply the cost per square foot by the square footage of the lots owned by each property owner to determine their demolition cost.
This method of calculation will lower the cost of demolition for the property owners and be a fairer way of determining what they should be billed, while simultaneously increasing the amount owed by the city. Mayor Washburn stated the city has already paid the total bill.
During the July 18 meeting, the board voted to accept an offer from Frank Peeler to purchase his 1,900 square foot lot for $14,000, which amounts to $7.36 per square foot. Mayor Washburn said, “I’ve been in communication with Mr. Peeler, and we’re working on getting his property conveyed to the city.”
Alderman Kenneth Moore asked how long it would be before work could begin on the municipal complex.
Mayor Washburn said, “It is the board’s intent to get a clear understanding of what land we’re going to have available to build on before we get started.”
“I realize it’s going to be late in the year for construction to begin, but that’s sort of where we’re at,” Mayor Washburn said. “But as A2H has told us, we don’t have to build it all at one time. We could proceed with constructing the fire department. I anticipate by the next meeting, the purchase of the (Peeler and Winstead) properties will be finalized.”
The board approved a resolution to the FY 2022-2023 budget that reallocates funds and expenses in the line item budgets for the General Fund and Water Fund. The amendments carry forward purchase orders that were not invoiced by June 30, 2022.
The purchase orders carried over include: Highway 22 street lights damaged by the tornado; three light poles damaged by accidents; paving and sidewalks/curbing; a stop light damaged by the tornado that needs to be replaced, which will be reimbursed by FEMA; the purchase of new truck; and the cost of rebuilding an aerator motor.
Items that need to be added to the budget include: the purchase of a new leaf machine costing $89,991.14, which will be paid for using donated funds in the amount of $68,000 plus expected surplus sales tax receipts; and A2H’s consulting fee for the sewer bore project for a new gas station on Highway 22.
Mayor Washburn stated Jacob Swatzell requested Anderson Lane, located behind Simmons Bank and the Methodist Church property be taken off the list of city streets and be allowed to become a private driveway, so it could be used for private parking. Since Swatzell was not present to address the board, no action was taken.
In department reports, Public Works Director Josh Lassiter responded to a question by Alderman Moore, who inquired if anything could be done to reduce the humps in driveways along Evergreen Street, where the street was repaved. The area in question is where the sidewalks were replaced.
“What we’re trying to do is get back down to the original water drainage,” Lassiter said.
Alderman Ralph Cobb stated there is also a big bump at the entrance to the city park.
The mayor noted this was also an issue when Linden Street was repaved. “We asked them to come back and do some remedial work on that street, as well.”
Alderman Moore said, “The contractor should not be allowed to get away with it and should be called out on it.”
Lassiter agreed to contact the contractor and inform him that the problem needs to be addressed.
Mayor Washburn stated the Dresden Police Department has been very busy the past few weeks dealing with mischief in the downtown area. The mayor was referring to local businesses around the court square area being vandalized. Several windows were broken and several buildings were burglarized. There has also been a rash of catalytic converter thefts, which have occurred in several areas, including at local businesses.
The mayor commended the Dresden Fire Department for receiving an award of excellence from the Tennessee Municipal League, for its response on December 10, 2021, which saved a lot of firefighting equipment by disbursing the equipment throughout the city. The award will be presented in mid-August at Gatlinburg.
Long Term Recovery Group Report
Weakley County Economic Development Board Director Justin Crice gave a report concerning the status of the Long Term Recovery Group.
“The available funding we have is for unmet needs,” Crice said. “The funds are to be distributed by case management. Each funding organization keeps their money, and at the end of the line, the funds are requested through our allocations committee.”
Crice stated the Red Cross informed him Dresden would receive a grant for a program coordinator and construction manager for the Long Term Recovery Group. Funding will be provided every three months as efforts progress.
He explained there are many cases waiting for a licensed contractor, in order to get a quote for construction costs. Crice noted the construction manager will fill out the paperwork for survivors. “They will go into homes and make estimates, and then arrange for construction to be done through that vendor. It will be done through a case manager.”
According to Crice, the long term recovery phase can take from 18 to 36 months.
Mayor Washburn said, “These are things that Red Cross, FEMA and their insurance did not cover.”
Alderman Moore stated $680,000 was donated for long-term recovery efforts.
“Organizations partnering with us include Dresden Church of Christ, Dresden First Baptist Church, Dresden Rotary Club, Greenfield Church of Christ, Lebanon Church of Christ, and the Weakley County Baptist Association,” Crice said.
“Presently we have 75 survivors pending assignment to case managers. There are 33 cases active with a case manager, and 21 survivors have had their cases closed,” Crice said.
Weakley County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Barbara Virgin reported the chamber hosted golf tournaments during 2021 and 2022, and had the largest number of players to ever participate.
She stated the annual Christmas reception, hosted by the City of Dresden, was held at Dresden Elks Lodge. “We are thankful for all of the support we’ve had in the past and are having now. We had over 200 members that night,” Virgin said.
“Also, there were over 350 guests at the Chamber Awards Banquet held at the UTM Boling University Center, which featured: Leadership Weakley County, First Community Bank Youth Leadership, the new Chamber President, Weakley Countian of the Year, and Business of the Year.”
Virgin reported the chamber added 35 new businesses to its membership, and the retention rate for businesses becoming chamber members is 97 percent. She stated the chamber also held 18 ribbon-cutting ceremonies this year. “So, the chamber is still thriving and doing well, and we appreciate all of your support.”
According to Virgin, since the chamber and the Weakley County Economic Development Board merged, they have been restructured and are operating out of the chamber building in downtown Dresden. Members are: President – Maria Lackey of Sharon; Past President – Amy Lewellen of Dresden; President Elect – Brian Legons of Gleason; Hannah Alexander of Martin, who also represents UTM; Callie Smithson of Greenfield; Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum; and Shelly Bowers of WCMES. The staff includes: Justin Crice – CEO; Barbara Virgin – Chamber Director; and Marguriet Frazier – Administrative Assistant.
The next regular meeting of the Dresden City Board will be held Monday, September 12, at 6 p.m. at the Dresden Civic Center.