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Wallace property still in limbo

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he’s had no conversation with Gov. Bob Riley about the future of the Lurleen B. Wallace Developmental Center property on U.S. 31 in Decatur.

“I’ve heard various ideas pitched around about what could be on the site, but I have not talked with the governor,” Orr said.

He said local leaders such as Morgan County’s mayors and county commissioners should reach a consensus about the future of the site between Hartselle and Decatur.

Since the state closed the developmental center in 2003, people have suggested that local leaders use it for everything from a biotech center to a high-tech training hub.

But, the fate of the property has remained in limbo for nearly four years.

There’s been no talk among the local legislative delegation about what to do with it, Orr said.

Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said discussion about the property’s future stopped during the general election.

“The site is something we need to discuss as a local delegation, and we need to do it soon,” said Hammon, who in August 2005 suggested using the center as a high-tech training facility after Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology announced plans to locate in Huntsville.

“I still support using the land for that,” he said. “This is a valuable asset to Morgan County, and we need to discuss it with the governor’s staff soon.”

In 2004, Hammon met with Decatur Mayor Don Kyle to discuss acquiring the property.

As the mayors gathered to discuss a future Morgan County industrial park, Kyle proposed in February 2005 that the coalition turn the property into a technology village similar to Cummins Research Park in Huntsville.

Not only did the mayors support Kyle’s idea, they signed a letter asking Gov. Riley to deed the 160-acre site back to Morgan County.

State officials decided to retain ownership, but expressed an interested in developing it commercially in conjunction with local governments.

The governor’s chief of staff told a local delegation in April 2005 that the state wanted to keep the property and manage it to generate revenue or sell it for revenue to benefit the state Mental Health and Mental Retardation Department.

According to Kyle, the site has 21 buildings totaling more than 330,000 square feet of floor space. He said almost one-half of the site is undeveloped.

Decatur City School used the site while the system was renovating Leon Sheffield School and constructing Banks-Caddell Elementary.

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