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Debate over land purchase dominates Carmi City Council meeting Monday night

The Carmi City Council met for the second time in March on Monday night, and quickly moved through the first two items on the agenda, but a packed house in the Council Chambers had a spirited but respectful debate over item number three.

After unanimously approving the minutes and financials, the Council approved unanimously the appointment of Diane Healy to the Library Board for a three year team retroactive to January 1st, filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Andy Accord.

The Council also quickly and unanimously approved renewal of the employee safety incentive program to run through March 31, 2017.  City Clerk Brian Allen told the Council that City employees logged no missed days last year due to injury, and that the same result this year will generate a larger bonus through the program.

The third and final item on the agenda did generate much debate, involving a civil 35 minute discussion amongst the Council members and members of the public who had turned up in large numbers and seemed to be equally divided.  Mayor Pollard announced that just before the last Council meeting, it was brought to attention that 66 acres of land adjacent to Burrell’s Woods had become available.  The Council discussed purchasing the land in executive session at the last meeting, and it was agreed to further explore acquiring the property.

Pollard noted that the Council agreed that it was poor timing to make such a purchase, but the general sentiment was that the opportunity was not one the Council wanted to pass up.  Pollard stated that an agreement had been reached to make a $50,000 payment at closing, and then the City would make four $50,000 payments over four years with no interest to complete the sale.

When asked by a visitor about how the City would pay for the property, Pollard said a CD had recently matured and that half of the $100,000 would be used for the first payment.  The rest of the funds would come from revenue generated by the campground over the next four years.

Some in the audience questioned the prudence of making such a purchase at a time when the City is just barely staying in the black, and also expressing concerns about using savings to acquire the property.  However, others in the audience applauded the Council for investing in the future of Carmi, noting that the land available may not be in the near future, and that if the City wished to recoup those funds later, could resale the land.

In the end, the Council voted 7-1 to approve the purchase, with Alderman Yearby issuing the lone no vote.

In the Mayor’s report, Pollard noted the city wide cleanup event was going on until Friday, and that an electronics recycling event had been scheduled for April 2nd.