(Updated) ‘Let’s get real; let’s fix real problems first’

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Hanceville Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Sawyer and City Clerk Tania Wilcox watch as Councilman Jimmie Nuss signs a resolution at Thursday night’s Hanceville City Council meeting. The council passed the resolution to notify the Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE), Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette and Hanceville Board Member Kenny Brockman that the City of Hanceville is against the construction of the multi-use sports complex (“Project X”), which is to be paid for by the recently-passed half-cent sales tax. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – The Hanceville City Council on Thursday night adopted a resolution to notify Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE), Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette and Hanceville Board Member Kenny Brockman that the City of Hanceville is against the construction of the multi-use sports complex (“Project X”), which is to be paid for by the recently-passed half-cent sales tax.

The Cullman County Commission voted on March 12, 2019 to approve the new half-cent sales tax to benefit Cullman County Schools, with the money earmarked for facilities and safety upgrades for all county school campuses, as well as “Project X,” the details of which were not revealed until March 20, 2019. The tax will be imposed for 15 years. The commission’s vote was in a response to a request from the CCBOE, which had voted earlier that same morning in a special-called meeting to approach the commission with the request.

On March 19, 2019 Barnette revealed “Project X” as a multi-use sports and event venue to be located in Cullman, on Alabama Highway 157 near its intersection with I-65. The facility will be located behind Warehouse Discount Groceries, on land donated to the CCBOE by Roy Drinkard. The new half-cent sales tax, along with lodging tax money contributed by the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, is to help fund the project, which is projected to reach $30 million.

The resolution adopted by the Hanceville City Council Thursday night reads:

Whereas, Shane Barnette, Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE) Superintendent, Kenny Brockman, Hanceville Board Member, and the other members of the CCBOE initiated a half-cent sales tax for a multi-use sports event venue; and

Whereas, the CCBOE passed this initiative in an early morning special called meeting; and

Whereas, the CCBOE delivered this initiative to the Cullman County Commission the same morning wherein it was improved to be imposed upon the people of Cullman County; and

Whereas, the imposed half-cent sales tax will help fund this project with an estimated cost of $30 million; and

Whereas, the county school facilities located in Hanceville are in need of repair and expansion; and

Whereas, the multi-use sports and event venue will have a detrimental effect on the local schools, local economy, and Wallace State Community College.

Now therefore, be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Hanceville that the Hanceville CCBOE Member, Kenny Brockman, the CCBOE Superintendent, Shane Barnette and the rest of the Cullman County Board of Education Members be notified that the City of Hanceville is in opposition to the construction of the multi-use sports facility.

It is further resolved that the City of Hanceville calls upon the Hanceville CCBOE Member, Kenny Brockman, to oppose this project and stand firm for this community, as he was elected to do, by petitioning for the half-cent sales tax to be used to improve our local school facilities.

Read and adopted this the 28th day of March 2019.

Councilwoman Kim Brown voted no on the resolution; she is an employee of the CCBOE.

After Thursday night’s meeting, Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail said, “I thought it was important for this mayor and this council to come out with a strong statement. We’re not trying to be ugly, not trying to be mean to (any)body, but we wrote this this proclamation today and consulted several people about this proclamation. We wanted a strong proclamation that left no doubt how we feel about it.”

Nail said he requested a meeting with Barnette and Brockman to voice his concerns, including the age and condition of the Hanceville schools, mold problems and lunchroom issues were a few he listed as high priority.

He asked, “Why (are) there children, they go up there and eat breakfast at 7:30 in the morning and they’re back in there at 10 o’clock eating lunch? Then some of our kids are eating at and after 1 o’clock in the evening. We (don’t have) money to do anything about that, but we got money to build a $30 million sports complex?”

Nail said Hanceville has sought to separate its elementary school for many years. He described the way the buildings have been added throughout the years and the condition of the buildings as creating a campus that “looks like hell.”

He added, “I told the superintendent, ‘I think you’re trying to put the icing on the cake before you bake the cake.’”

Nail made it clear that the decision by the Cullman County Commission to add a half cent to the sales tax for the schools was not the issue. The decision to use the money for the sports complex rather than the schools’ immediate needs is what Hanceville is against.

“They never asked our opinions, no public hearings, no community input. There was no nothing! We’re just going to make a decision and that’s how it’s going to be. That’s pretty much how the community feels.”

The plan by the CCBOE to use part of the tax money for campus security Nail described as “ a good spend.” However, Nail said, after speaking to many of other mayors in Cullman County, he felt that each community has its own needs that haven’t been addressed. 

The economic impact to the Hanceville community is another major concern the mayor and council hope Barnette and the CCBOE will consider. He said Barnette has suggested that each county school would play one or two football games at the proposed complex each season. This is an idea Nail does not support.

Nail explained, “These little towns and these little communities need that economic impact. On Friday night, it’s a big impact for a local community to have that football game in their town.”

For Hanceville, the threat to the economy could be especially significant if events were moved away from Wallace State Community College.

Another meeting is planned next week at which Nail and other community leaders will voice their opposition to the CCBOE. Nail was adamant about standing up for both the city and Wallace State.

He stressed, “We’re going to fight for our high school and we’re going to fight for Wallace State. We’re going to fight them tooth and nail.”

He continued, “I’ll say this, you go ahead and build this. There’s going to be an election one of these days, and you can be looking for another job, and you can quote me on that.”

The City of Hanceville is the first city to make a public proclamation in opposition to the proposed sports complex. Nail’s hope is that this strong statement will result in the CCBOE reconsidering. If not, Nail said he will not rule out future action by the city. 

“’I have a dream.’ I think that’s what the superintendent said, ‘I have dream.’ Well, I’ve had a nightmare for years, actually,” he said. “My nightmare is why are these kids still going to these old buildings? Why do we have the crappiest campuses in the county? Why are we eating lunch at 10 in the morning? I’m all about people having dreams, but let’s get real. Let’s fix real problems first.”

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