The City of Reidsville has called a special council meeting for public comment scheduled for Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. to discuss the city’s purchase of the property of Cheney & Cheney Law Offices owned by current city attorney Van Cheney.
While the meeting is scheduled for a terribly inconvenient time for working people and the ad for the specially-called meeting did not run the full two weeks in the paper, the issue is pressing as the city is already taking action. Back in May, the council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of a $425,000 piece of property with a building for the new Reidsville City Hall.
The new city hall will not be cheap for taxpayers. The building will need renovations and the adjacent land will need to have a building demolished and then be paved for parking. Additionally, the current city hall will become the department headquarters for public safety employees. The city will be responsible for additional utilities and taxes.
According to open records requests provided by City Clerk Kellie Murray and received by AllOnGeorgia on September 24, 2015,
- The sale price is $425,000
- City Attorney Van Cheney will finance the property for 3% for 15 years
- The monthly payments to Cheney will total $2,934.97
- The goal is to “complete the transaction as quickly as is reasonable possible” though possession will not be granted until January 1, 2016
When the city attorney is involved with a purchase by the city, much room is left for impropriety. Even though there may not be an actual conflict of interest or violation of any law, the public knows better than anyone that perception is everything. There are a few things that should concern the public:
- The idea that the city attorney may cater to the needs of the council and/or mayor instead of the integrity of the institution so as not to do anything that would cause the land deal to fall through.
- Having a contractor or employee finance property in a city purchase leaves much room for corruption and misappropriation of funds.
- Completing the transaction under the current council is suspect. With a mayoral election and turnover possible with more than one current city council member, it is very likely the same decision on city hall property would not be the same.
The City of Reidsville is home to less than 3,000 people. While the Cheney & Cheney Law Office property may be prime location, it may not be feasible or necessary for the City. $425,000 is a lot of money for property in Reidsville.
The appraisal for the property has not yet been provided to AllOnGeorgia, though it was requested, but a 2,400 square foot home on 64 acres not far from downtown Reidsville is only $399,900. This property on the same road as the current city hall is listed under $90,000. Neither is a viable option for city hall, but you can get the feel for prices. And this home in downtown Reidsville is zoned commercial or residential and is on the market for just $122,900. Are there no other options anywhere in the city? How much contemplation was really allocated to this issue? Why was the decision made in May but the public hearing was just scheduled for the end of this month?
A simple answer the question ‘Should Reidsville be purchasing property from the City Attorney?” Absolutely not. The City of Reidsville shouldn’t be purchasing property from the city attorney for a number of reasons. But it sounds more like a retirement plan for Cheney than an upgrade for the taxpayers.
Make your voice heard and attend the meeting on Tuesday night at City Hall. 5:00 p.m.