Council votes to move forward with purchasing Pilgrim’s Pride site, pending studies

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ATHENS, Ala. -  The city council voted unanimously to move forward in the purchase process of the Pilgrim's Pride site.

For the past four years, Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks has been negotiating with the plant on a deal to purchase the 32-acre site for  $550,000.

But the next step isn't a deed, but an investigation.

Over the next 120 days, they'll get info on two factors: the cost to demolish the structures, and the extent of any environmental issues below the surface.

Amended language solidifies Mayor Marks' plan to brief the council on the findings, giving them the ability to vote to pull out of the agreement if necessary.

"We know that its going to be a high dollar to do the demolition," said Council President Joseph Cannon. "We hope it's going to be no issues with the environmental study but we know it could be."

Mayor Marks tells WHNT News 19 above ground testing has already been performed on the site, and it came up clean. Phase two will be the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) drilling in multiple places looking for any issues underground. 

He adds that the city could potentially handle some of the demolition themselves to mitigate costs, the same way they demolished the former city hall. He says the property, which has been there since the 1950s, likely has some issues, but there are grant opportunities to clean up whatever issues may be found.

"I would expect some findings," said the mayor. "I would hope it's not devastating enough to make us back off, because then you have a community that still has to deal with a blighted piece of property."

In 120 days, once the council gets the briefing back, they will decide to move forward or stop the purchase process.

Residents who live close to the site of Pryor Street also were present at the meeting, urging  them to purchase and clean up the site.

"Well it's an eyesore right next to my house," said resident Adam Keller. "We have a wonderful university and a brand new high school coming up, I'd love to see that property used in a better way for the community."

Both Mayor Marks and Councilman Cannon say the property has lots of potential for everything from retail to upscale apartments. Mayor Marks tells us a private organization has verbally committed to contributing funds toward a greenspace on the property.

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