COURTLAND, Ala. - A North Alabama town is poised on the brink of bankruptcy. The Lawrence County Town of Courtland is selling assets and laying off workers, all in an attempt to keep the once thriving town afloat.
But money and optimism are both in short supply. Courtland is a little town with big problems.
“It’s bad because we ain't got enough business in town, and we’re struggling,” says Mayor Clarence Logston.
Earlier this week, the town council took steps to save what little money they have. They reduced the two workers at town hall to four-day work weeks. They cut the town's assistant police chief from full-time to part-time, leaving only one full-time police officer.
Wednesday afternoon, when we went by the police station, it was closed, along with everything else on the town square.
The council also voted to close their golf course. It’s been on the market for sale for some time but there were no takers. The 5 employees who worked there have been laid off. Now the council plans to just auction the property off.
These problems didn't just crop up overnight. Some residents tell WHNT News 19 they've seen this coming for quite some time, and they question the town's spending habits over the past decade, or even longer. They claim at one time Courtland was regarded as one of the richest little towns in the state.
But they agree the demise began years ago when Alternate Highway 72 was four-laned. The Alabama Department of Transportation routed the new highway around the town.
The old highway is little more than a quiet residential street, lined with the memories of what used to be.
But the death nail was the closing of International Paper several years ago. It was the county's largest employer and funneled money into the town on a regular basis. Those payments have stopped.
Council members say they'd like to avoid it, but with more money going out each month than is coming in, bankruptcy is on everyone's mind here.
Mayor Logston says, ”Well, right now we're in bad shape, you know, that's all I can say, financially. So we just have to work through it, and I’m going to tell you, we've just got to put it up to Jesus Christ cause I do not know the future, but he does."
WHNT News 19 confirmed at least one member of the town council has already contacted the Alabama League of Municipalities to find out what happens to the town if they are forced into bankruptcy. The league's attorneys are researching the question and hope to have more information for them in the next few days.