Madison County leaders mulling over price for new courthouse location

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Madison County leaders say they need some new courthouse space. They have a spot they're eager to snatch up, but they can't seem to agree on a price.

"We started off looking at every piece of property from the spot at Drake and the Parkway. We looked at a piece on Governors and another at Oakwood, where the former cattle barn used to be," Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong said.

They're now eyeing the former Food World grocery lot along the Parkway.

"I think it's a great location for us. I just have heartburn paying that much money for it," Commissioner Phil Riddick said.

Up for debate was how big a check to write. Commissioners today approved a $3.1 million deal to buy a little under eight acres from the Baites Company.

"All the things we need are there," Commissioner Steve Haraway said. "Sometimes, you have to pay a premium to get those things. When you have a house that has all the features, you may have to pay a little extra to get it if you want it."

Commissioners who were unsure about the deal say the biggest question is, just how much is this land worth? Appraisals may vary. Some had it for around $4 million, then $3.5, the latest being around $3.1 million. But they say with not much competition, they could likely get it for less than $3 million.

"But I think we're the first guy to come along since it's been on the market," Riddick said. "And that's the asking price and I think we outta let them sweat a little, if nothing else."

The agreement states that the current owner Baites won't sell to a competitor before the end of the month. If the next appraisal comes in for less money, commissioners say they can tear up the agreement and offer less.

After Wednesday's vote, the commission has 90 days to get a second appraisal and negotiate a price if it looks like they can buy it for less than $3 million.