Preserving history: Garden City Elementary School

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Garden City Elementary School building (2019 Cullman Tribune file photo)

GARDEN CITY, Ala. – The Alabama Legislature recently passed bills which would authorize the Town of Garden City to take ownership of the Garden City Elementary School building from the Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE). The transfer will be final once signed by Gov. Kay Ivey.

House Bill 495 was sponsored by Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Good Hope. It authorizes the Town “to receive and hold title to the former Garden City School property and to manage that property; to authorize the governing body of the Town of Garden City to accept title and state and other governmental funding as well as charitable donations.” The town council is prohibited from selling or transferring ownership of the property without a majority vote of the qualified voters in Garden City.

The Garden City Town Council was originally approached at its Aug. 19, 2019 council meeting by CCBOE board member Kenny Brockman about the possible transfer of the building and property to the Town.

Said Garden City Mayor Tim Eskew, “Right now, we’re still waiting on word. It’s got to go through the governor’s hands. She’s got to sign off on it, and then we’re waiting on word from the school board, when they’ll actually turn it over, because they’ll have to give us a bit of a notice so we can get all of our ducks in a row. We’re looking forward to it right now!”

Eskew did not give any definitive plans for what the Town plans to do with the school once acquiring the property.

Back in August, he said, “There’s a lot of different things that it can be utilized for. It could be a community center for the town, or you know, a senior center; there’s so many things that it can be utilized as.”

Garden City Elementary School was condemned by the CCBOE in Aug. 2014, after former CCBOE Superintendent Dr. Craig Ross released an estimate on the repair costs for the building, which was $885,000. The building is nearing 100 years old, and the repairs needed were due to aging.

House Bill 495 states:

Relating to Cullman County; to authorize the governing body of the Town of Garden City to receive and hold title to the former Garden City school property and to manage that property; to authorize the governing body of the Town of Garden City to accept title and state and other governmental funding as well as charitable donations; and to provide that property of the board may transfer property under certain conditions.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:

Section 1. (a) In Cullman County, the governing 13 of the Town of Garden City may own, operate, manage, and preserve the former Garden City school property in the Town of Garden City, including any ball fields and other historical structures, owned by the Cullman County Board of Education. To the extent allowed under Section 36-1-12, Code of Alabama 1975, members of the governing body are immune from civil liability for actions taken in the conduct of their duties relating to the Garden City school property.

(b)(1) The governing body of the Town of Garden City may accept title to the former Garden City school property owned by the Cullman County Board of Education and may hold the property for the benefit and use of the public, particularly the of Garden City. The governing body of the Town of Garden City may receive state, local, and other governmental funding and may accept charitable donations for the operation, management, and preservation of the former Garden City school property.

(2) The governing body of the Town of Garden City may not sell or transfer ownership of the property unless approved by majority vote of the governing body and then by a majority vote of the qualified electors in the Town of Garden City at a referendum called by the Judge of Probate of Cullman County and held during the following general election.

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