Montevallo council signs deal with county, development consortium

Published 11:34 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

By NANCY WILSTACH / Special the Reporter

MONTEVALLO – On a split vote and after contentious comments, the Montevallo City Council signed onto a “Memorandum of agreement” with Shelby County, the Montevallo Development Cooperative District and the Shoal Creek Park Foundation that seems to put the MDCD in the driver’s seat for the future of the historic Mahler house.

The Mahler house is the two-story antebellum farmhouse on the 167-acre farm that comprises Shoal Creek Park. The house and land were a bequest to the city from Elizabeth Mahler.

Dee Woodham, MDCD chair, discussed the MOA in the pre-meeting work session and presented a timeline of what has happened regarding the property since it has been in the city’s possession; she did not stay for the council meeting that followed. The MDCD is a consortium of the University of Montevallo, the city and Shelby County.

Although not on the printed council agenda for the Aug. 27 meeting, the MOA was added by unanimous consent and adopted on a 5-1 vote. It specifies that the city “provides $300,000 from the Mahler estate proceeds for use with the renovation of the park house and related infrastructure for use as a residential dwelling for an on-site caretaker.”

Additionally, the agreement “requests construction management services” by the county at a cost of $12,000. That detail previously drew criticism from Janice Seaman of the Montevallo Historical Commission. The property needs oversight from an experienced restoration expert, she has said.

Seaman was quick to take part in the public comment period before the council meeting.  She noted that she wanted to question Woodham about the time line, but, because only the council and department heads may speak during the work session, she lost that opportunity when Woodham left the chamber.

Seaman was unable to finish a list of items she felt belonged on the time line when the mayor cut her off after three minutes.

Bill Glosson also brought up concerns with the MOA during the second public comment period following the meeting.

He objected to a clause in the MOA that gave “event or programming access” to UM, while the public schools must pay fees to use UM facilities.

Glosson said MDCD projects tend to favor UM interests. “People, myself included, are beginning to become concerned,” he said.

Nix voted “no” on the MOA, saying nothing in it sets out the “scope of work,” although the MOA states “renovation actions are scheduled to be performed from Sept. 5, 2018, through March 30, 2019.”

Cost said a statement of scope of work will be presented after the county project manager assesses the extent of repairs and renovation required to make the house safe for occupation.

In other business, Bobby Pierson, retired Montevallo High School teacher and coach, questioned why the city no longer budgets cash contributions to the three public schools in Montevallo. Cost told him that “we do make contributions to the schools.”  She listed after-school tutors from UM, as an example.

Pierson also asked the council to consider paying stipends to the council members and making the mayor’s job a full-time position.

Susan Godwin echoed Pierson’s comment about the schools: “I don’t know a time when the city has been so ungenerous to the public schools,” she said.

The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.