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Tommy Patton was angry when he saw the photo of his lot on The Daily's front page Sunday because it did not show the areas he has cleared, only the untouched portion. He inherited the land from his father and has been working to improve it.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Tommy Patton was angry when he saw the photo of his lot on The Daily's front page Sunday because it did not show the areas he has cleared, only the untouched portion. He inherited the land from his father and has been working to improve it.

Owner improving property
He was cleaning when
paper ran photo, he says

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

FLORETTE — Tommy Patton said he was cleaning up his property a mile south of here when The Daily exposed it on the front page of Sunday's paper.

The photograph ran as an illustration to an article about whether Morgan County voters should vote on a limited home rule provision as voters in 15 other counties, including Madison and Marshall, have done. Approval would allow the County Commission to remove junk and health hazards.

Patton said he agrees with District 4 Commissioner Stacy George and District 3 Commissioner Kevin Murphy, both of whom are against such an ordinance.

The caption did not identify the property owner.

"I was mad when I saw the photo," he said. "Everyone around knows I'm the owner. I was at a family reunion at my sister's house, when a neighbor called and asked if I had seen it. I picked up the newspaper, and there it was."

Patton, 42, a Florette resident, said when he got to his job that night at Sonoco Products in Hartselle, where he works third-shift maintenance, someone had posted the photo as wallpaper on the shop computer.

"I was still kind of irritated," he said. "But what could I say?"

Patton said he owns 4 acres at Eva Road and Fort Bluff Road, which his father, Carl Patton, left him when in died in 2004.

"I got the deed in January 2006," Tommy Patton said, Tuesday as he walked over the property. "Dad bought a business here in 1969, operating a gas station, a salvage yard, and he sold used cars. He continued until 1977, when he retired on disability, and it just sat here. I piddled around here myself, right after I got out of high school."

Patton said he and his dad asked the county to post three no-dumping signs on the property, but that even as he worked to remove debris, the dumping continued.

"I lined up some old cars across the front and kind of let the property grow up in an effort to block people and try to keep them out," he said, "and I put up that chain barrier. It didn't do much good."

Patton called the property "my dad's baby. He loved his junk, and it's hard to get rid of. I have hauled off a lot to recyclers, including about 50 vehicles from the hollow, and I took tires to the (Decatur-Morgan County Landfill). I've still got a lot of stuff here, and a lot that others dropped off, but I'm continuing to work on it."

He said of eight vehicles that remain, five still run, including a 1977 Monte Carlo that his dad bought new and a 1987 S-10 Chevy pickup "he got in 1989, when it had only 8,000 miles on it. They have sentimental value. I'll probably just let them sit."

Also running are a 1958 1-ton Ford pickup and two wrecker trucks.

"I will sell one of the wreckers and keep the other one for work around here," Patton said. "I'll take the other vehicles, including the Ford pickup, to salvage."

He said he hopes to remove the vehicles and other debris within a month, but that his work schedule could interfere. He said he and his wife, Charlotte, have a grander plan to refurbish the property.

"We have plenty of room here, 900 feet of frontage on Eva Road and about 400 feet on Fort Bluff Road," he said. "Charlotte would like to open a thrift shop in the old service station building. We'll fix it up and do that. I've already done a lot of work on the inside. It still looks rough outside."

Patton said he plans to do remodeling work on his dad's garage and use it as he had done, to work on personal cars.

"I've always liked to tinker with cars," he said.

He also wants to renew his dealer license, which expired in 1995, and sell cars off a lot here.

"For doing all of this," he said, "we have no timetable."

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