Debate Dredges Up Difficulties Between Huntsville And Madison

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - City leaders of Huntsville and Madison buried the hatchet between the two communities three years ago.

In Wednesday night's debate, candidates seemed happy to pile on dirt, with each candidate taking a moment at some point to proclaim how important cooperation between the two communities can be.

But later in the debate, some of the candidates seemed to paw at that settling soil furtively.

SciQuest, a hands-on science museum that recently announced its relocation to Madison, may lose funding from Huntsville, which had Madison candidate Don Palmer eyeing the buried hatchet with interest.

Palmers says, "Madison city, we help the Space and Rocket Center and other attractions in Huntsville.  What's going on there?"

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle responds, "Everybody thinks SciQuest is working on science, technology, engineering, mathematics, the things that we have to work on.  It's a hands-on children's museum.  But we also have our own children's museum, which we put several hundred-thousand dollars a year into, which is a history museum, which is our Early Works museum."

The hatchet seemed closer than ever to the surface during a discussion of Huntsville Utilities leadership.

Debate Panelist Dr. Jess Brown asks the candidates, "Is it time for the city of Madison to have some representation on the electricity board of Huntsville Utilities?"

"I can answer that question," Palmer responds.  "I think yes, of course, if you look at the calculation of the numbers of the population, we have to make adjustments.  We have 44% more people that we had ten years ago, when I came here.  The formulas change."

Mayor Battle counters, "The city of Huntsville back in the 1960's took on the risk, started that business.  We took on the bonds and put out the bonds.  We were the ones who had to back those bonds.  If it had gone south, I don't think anybody would be coming to say let us come to you and help you pay for that.  Let us help you pay for that today, because we know that just didn't work out good for you."

The debate did show good will between Huntsville and Madison leaders, but it also showed that while the proverbial hatchet may remain under the dirt, everyone remembers exactly where it's buried.