City now proud owner of Fred’s building

tim and bill at frees
Light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox and Mayor Tim Kent are dwarfed by the empty space in the former Fred's building. They were inspecting the building since the purchase is complete and planning how to use the space.
January 3rd, 2020     Featured General News

New Albany city officials formally took possession of the former Fred’s discount building Thursday morning, paving the way for a new light, gas and water department as well as police department, city courtroom and aldermen’s boardroom.

Mayor Tim Kent said they had not received the deed but the contracts have been signed and the purchase price paid.

Kent said the city paid $600,000 for the building, which is slightly less than its appraised value.

The building comprises about 17,000 square feet and sits on about four acres including the parking areas.

After Fred’s closed its stores the company filed for bankruptcy. New Albany officials submitted a bid but the bankruptcy judge apparently decided it was better to sell a group of the former store buildings as a unit.

An owner of the Tractor Supply Company was the buyer, Kent said, with the intention of placing TSC stores in the former Fred’s buildings. Since New Albany already has a TSC, that likely made the city’s acquisition somewhat easier.

The $600,000 price was a compromise between what the city first offered and the purchased asked.

Kent said the city is going to be able to take advantage of a state low-interest program for cities and borrow the money for renovation of the building, and possibly the purchase price as well.

If the purchase had not gone through the city would have had to continue efforts to find and buy property for a new police department and light, gas and water office, and spend millions of dollars to construct new buildings.

The plan calls for the utility department to be in the front of the building and use the drive-through window for utility bill payment where the pharmacy used to be. The police department will be in the back and can use the upstairs area for evidence and other secure storage.

In the middle will be a municipal courtroom and possibly a board meeting room. Now, the city has to hold court in the justice courtroom resulting in crowding in the jail foyer and confusion for the justice court clerk’s office.

Some had expressed hope that enough room would be left to have to rooms for meetings or small business conventions but the officials said Thursday that might not be possible.

While the department heads have some idea of their needs, the city will have to go through the process of working with architects and engineers to come up with a comprehensive renovation plan.

Still apparently undecided is what use the present police and light, gas and water buildings will be put to after the move.

In a related matter, the city purchased the former sale barn property on East Bankhead this past year and plans to move the city gas department there. Equipment and material will be stored in the covered area and offices will be in the separate former auto shop building.

There has been some talk about possibly letting the city water department use the present gas department building on Wilbanks Street.

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