The Tallassee City Council held a special council meeting on Dec. 29 to pass a resolution that would allow city officials to move forward with discussions with eastside mill owner Tommy Hudson that would transfer ownership of the property to the City of Tallassee.
The city has been in litigation with Mount Vernon Pine since 2017, but that could be over.
"We've been discussions over the past several months for ways to do that, and some time ago they — that is Mount Vernon Pine — would deed the property to the City in resolution of the lawsuit," city attorney John Smith said. "So that Mount Vernon Pine might be able to get whatever tax advantage it might give for making what would amount to be a charitable donation to the city. "
The deed to the site needs to be notarized before the city can officially take ownership and Hudson is expected to pay the $300 in taxes owed on the property before the deal is complete.
"We have exchanged papers and documents with their lawyer over the past week or thereabouts and believe we a have a firm agreement with them," Smith said. "While we have a signed deed, the deed has not been notarized."
In addition to the City of Tallassee dropping the lawsuit against Mount Vernon Pine, Mount Vernon Pine is expected to release the City of Tallassee from litigation as well.
"There is a release that is a mutual release where Mount Vernon Pine releases the city from any claims and it may claim to have against the city and the city releases Mount Vernon Pine from the lawsuit it's in as well as any other claim the city may have against Mount Vernon Pine,” Smith said.
Smith first explained the positive aspect of taking ownership of the mill site and how the property could be utilized.
"The city becomes the owner of the mill property," he said. "That gives the city a little bit of leeway to do two things. One, the water filter plant, the city would now have more property to expand, renovate or do whatever to may need to do now or in the future."
Smith then explained the downside of taking ownership of the decades-old scorched site.
"It now gives the city ownership of that property, that I think we all will agree is a mess,” Smith said. “But the city would be positioned to apply for grants and take steps to clean up that property, which is probably the least painful way to get that property cleaned up and put into a better appearing position than it is now.”
Councilmember Bill Godwin questioned the city's liability for the crumbling property.
"Post no trespassing signs, make sure the fences and lights are well maintained so that people are kept from going on to that property."
Tallassee Mayor Johnny Hammock expressed his thought on the matter explaining this could be the city solution to the future of the municipal water filter plant.
"I personally think this is something we need to act on we have our intake right below Thurlow Dam so there's really no other to expand the water filter plant,” Hammock said.
If there is one thing Hammock is known best for, it very well may be writing grants, and with over $4,350,000 in grant funding awarded to the city since taking office, he is prepared to begin the processes of applying for grant funding that would cover the cost of cleaning the site.
"I already have the Brownsfield grant written up to submit," Hammock said. "They have been holding and waiting."
The council voted all in favor, with the exception of councilmember David Stough, who was unable to attend Friday's special-called meeting.