Jasper candidates have differing thoughts on Farmstead School
by James Phillips
Aug 02, 2012 | 2802 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Farmstead School property has become a campaign topic in Jasper’s mayoral race. Photo by: Daniel Gaddy
The Farmstead School property has become a campaign topic in Jasper’s mayoral race. Photo by: Daniel Gaddy
A school closed by the Walker County Board of Education last year has become a talking point in the Jasper mayoral race.

Johnny Rollins, a candidate for mayor and current council member for District 2, said during a special called meeting of the Jasper City Council last week that the Farmstead School property is available and he felt it would be in the city’s best interest to purchase the property.

“Farmstead School is not sold,” Rollins said during the meeting. “Farmstead Baptist had looked at it and to some extent are still looking at it, but it appears the City of Jasper can buy it at a very reasonable price.”

Council members voted unanimously last week to allow city attorneys to negotiate the purchase of the property with the Walker County BOE.

Mayor Sonny Posey, who is seeking re-election to that post, said earlier this week that Rollins’ proposal was premature.

“Many things must first be taken into account before we move in that direction,” Posey told members of the Kiwanis Club of Jasper on Monday.

Posey said the building needs to be checked for asbestos. He also said demolition and disposal costs needs to be calculated.

Posey questioned, “How much will it cost to acquire? How much will it cost to develop? How much will it cost to operate and maintain? Can the city afford it?”

Studying the situation and possibly developing it if it is economically feasible was Posey’s suggestion for the Farmstead School property.

“Let’s not rush into anything until we have examined the proposed project thoroughly and have ascertained that it is affordable,” Posey said. “To act otherwise in this case would be ill-advised and irresponsible.”

Rollins said the possible purchase price that he has heard would be “extremely affordable.” Rollins also said he would rather restore the building than destroy.

“That is such a historic building in our area,” Rollins said. “Before it was Farmstead School, the building was a factory used to build all the doors and windows for the Farmstead houses.”

Rollins said he had contacted U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt’s office to inquire about obtaining a federal grant to allow the city to restore the building.

“The Bankhead House turned out very well and the Farmstead School/Community Center Building would likewise,” Rollins said.

Posey and Rollins agreed Farmstead Baptist Church should have the ability to purchase the building if they are interested.

“If they want it, they should have it,” Posey said.

Rollins said he would congratulate the church on purchasing the property, saying, “It would be a wise choice by them, but, if they do not, we should move quickly.”

Mark Presswood, minister of music and education at Farmstead Baptist, said the church still has interest in the building.

“We’ve formed a committee to look into the possibility of purchasing the Farmstead School property,” he said. “I would say we are in investigation mode. We need to decide if it fits in our long-term goals.”

Walker County Schools Superintendent Jason Adkins said he has spoken to several people regarding the property.

“I’ve heard from several parties who would be interested in the property, including the city and the church,” Adkins said. “With something as valuable as that property, we will have to big it out. We can’t just pick who we want to sell it to.”