The Mobile County Commission voted 2-1 Tuesday to spend $10,000 for an option to buy property at the intersection of Interstates 10 and 65 for a proposed soccer facility.
The 116 acres at the northwest corner of Interstate 65 at Interstate 10, which is owned by real estate agencies White-Spunner and Berg and Company, will cost the county $2.96 million if they decide to purchase it. County Attorney Jay Ross said the commission would have nine months to decide to purchase the land. If the county decides not to purchase the land for any reason, the $10,000 is refunded, Ross told the commissioners during a conference meeting Thursday.
The property owners would also throw in 80 acres of mostly wetlands, as part of the deal, Ross said. Hudson has previously stated she would like to see the additional property made into a nature trail.
Commissioner Jerry Carl voted against placing the option on the property because of the amount of money the project will cost county taxpayers. He shared with Hudson an estimated cost breakdown of her project, which he said totaled more than $20 million.
The estimates, which Carl said came from a study by Hargrove Engineers and Constructors, showed the total land cost at $3.1 million. In addition, mitigation of eight acres of wetlands would cost $500,00, a 320-foot turn lane at the main entrance would cost $1.5 million, a sewer pumping system would cost $500,000, dirt work would cost $1.5 million.
Carl included estimates for work not included by Hargrove to get to the $20 million total cost. He added costs for fencing, buildings, landscaping and sodding of fields, all of which he estimated would total $2.5 million.
Carl handed the estimates to Hudson and asked her if she’d like to go over them during Tuesday’s meeting. Hudson called Carl’s numbers “guesstimates” and said the only way to find out the true cost of the project would be to move forward with the option and allow Neel-Schafer to begin site work.
“It’s a no-lose proposition,” Hudson said of the option.
Hudson has been pushing for an 11-field tournament-style soccer complex in this location, while Carl has pushed for a complex to be built on a piece of property off of McDonald Road in Irvington.
Hudson said using the same Hargrove estimates, Carl’s project was set to cost $12 million. Carl has previously quoted $5 million as the total cost for his proposed project.
In addition to the nine-month grace period, as part of the agreement with the owners, the county would be able to get two additional 90-day extensions on the purchase option, but each would cost an extra $10,000 and wouldn’t be refunded.
Carl questioned the rationale of spending $10,000 to secure a purchase option on land that had been on the market for “12 to 15 years.” He added that he wasn’t in favor of spending more money on the project because they don’t yet know how much it will cost.
“This is typical politics,” Carl said. “We’re getting pushed into a kennel chute and soon we’ll be so far in that we won’t be able to turn around.”
The commission recently approved spending around $70,000 to prepare the property for the sale and to perform environmental services on the site.
Hudson said it would be “irresponsible” to do the engineering work without first gaining a purchase option on the property.
“If you’re going to spend money you want to make sure the property is secured,” Hudson said. “It’s a process.”
Carl, who pulled his project from considering for county money last month opting instead for private funding, said he had two significant financial commitments that he “wasn’t at liberty to speak about.”
He added that he is working to put together a board to oversee as many as three soccer-related projects in the area. In addition to the Irvington site, which he said would coast about $5 million to complete, Carl has spoken with city officials about a site near downtown and athletic officials about an indoor facility near the site of the U.S.S. Alabama battleship.
“We’re worried about spending $20 million on one spot when we can spend that in three other places,” Carl said.
Carl said he has estimated the cost of the complex off Halls Mill Road to be around $20 million, while Hudson has said that figure is inaccurate. She has previously estimated that the project would cost around $12 million.