Following two months of political wrangling and private negotiations, the Rutherford County Commission has voted to keep the Lascassas Convenience Center at its current location.
Commissioner Jack Black, flanked by concerned residents, discusses the Lascassas Convenience Center during a Rutherford County Property Management Committee meeting Jan. 24, 2013, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/M. Kemph)
Commissioners agreed Thursday to spend $220,000 on the 2-acre plot, which includes enough land for a buffer, to avoid moving the convenience center next to the Lascassas Community Center.
Although several contended Peachtree Landscaping wanted too much for the land based on the current real estate market, commissioners agreed to the purchase due to the unpopularity of the prospective move, as well as associated costs, and time constraints.
“This has been a long, long road for our community and me,” said Commissioner Jack Black, who represents Lascassas. “This bothers me greatly, no matter how you look at it.”
Despite the criticism of the price, Rutherford County Major Ernest Burgess said it was unlikely Peachtree Landscaping, which is privately owned, would accept a lower amount for the plot.
“I have negotiated, and this is the best number,” Burgess said Thursday during a regularly scheduled monthly meeting in downtown Murfreesboro.
“This is my best advice,” he said, “and the best thing we can do to move this forward. This is an investment in the quality of life for the people of Lascassas.”
The convenience center has been leased for $15,000 a year from Peachtree Landscaping, which bought the property more than five years ago.
It is one of several Rutherford County drop-off points for household waste and recyclable materials, such as aluminum, cardboard and plastic.
In January, residents cried foul after Peachtree Landscaping, which owns the strip of land where the convenience center has been located for 30 years, did not renew its lease with Rutherford County.
The lease was not renewed soon after Lascassas residents persuaded officials to back off plans to purchase the entire Peachtree Landscaping site for $1.3 million, so that they could relocate the Rutherford County Solid Waste Department office and garbage truck maintenance there.
Subsequently, the convenience center was scheduled to close Sunday, Feb. 24 – leaving Lascassas residents less than a month to determine where it should be moved.
The decision comes only weeks after more than 50 Lascassas residents attended a Rutherford County Property Management Committee petitioning for help with the situation.
Initially, Black proposed moving the convenience center to county-owned property next to the community center and Lascassas Volunteer Fire Department but was met with opposition by residents, including an ancestor of the family who donated it to the city.
“My ancestors gave that land for a school,” Melinda “Mo” Brown Black said, referring to the county-owned property. “My dad told former Lascassas Mayor Nancy Allen that he would give his part of the land to the community if Rutherford County officials would allow a fire department and ball field to stay there, as well as buildings for law enforcement and emergency medical services.”
Throughout the entire debate, Black argued that he did not want the convenience center moved but felt as though Peachtree Landscaping was being unreasonable, especially in terms of the selling price.
“This has become a personal issue for me – the way this business has treated our community – this has been a stressful situation,” Black said, adding his job is to protect taxpayer money, as well as its history.
He was not alone in his concerns.
“I am a taxpayer of Rutherford County,” Lascassas resident Lisa Dill said, “and I just do not see giving $110,000 for an acre.
Rutherford County officials rushed to a decision without taking the time to find a better alternative than both ideas, she said.
“What the county wants to spend is ridiculous,” Dill said, adding it would have been more ideal for Lascassas residents to use the Walter Hill drop-off site temporarily until commissioners had time to figure out a better solution to the problem.
Cindy Wells agreed, noting the agreement seems highly unusual.
“The county in the last five years has never paid $110,000 an acre – not anywhere,” Well said. ‘So, this is an unprecedented amount of money to pay.”
Milton resident Stan Vaught, however, said Black did a good job of balancing the opposing agendas of residents, noting, “It is a challenge sometimes to be the best stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
“You have done your best in this situation,” Vaught said, as he spoke to Black. “Most of the people who live in rural parts of Rutherford County do not have that opportunity to enjoy that service, so the convenience center is needed in Lascassas.”