FLORENCE — If the City Council authorizes Mayor Mickey Haddock to negotiate the sale of the former Florence Golf and Country Club to a Chinese company, some decisions will have to be made about where to put the Senior Citizens Center and Sanitation Department offices.
The city bought the 155-acre property — which includes a two-level clubhouse — in November 2009 for the potential expansion of the adjoining landfill, which has since been closed. In the interim, the Senior Citizens Center was moved to the clubhouse, along with Sanitation Department offices.
“We will have to speed up the process (of building a new senior center) if the sale goes through,” Haddock said.
The council will discuss the offer from Guizhou Shenqi Group during its work session Tuesday to buy the property for $2.1 million, which is slightly more than the city paid for it.
The company wants to partner with the University of North Alabama and build a center for integrative health that offers a master’s degree.
The plan includes a teaching facility, student housing and extensive herb and plant gardens that would be open to the public.
Building a new Senior Citizens Center has long been on the capital projects budgets of several administrations but has not made it past the discussion phase.
This year could be different.
The new council, which took office in the November, assembled a wish list for capital projects, and most councilmen included a senior center. The consensus for a site appears to be Deibert Park.
“If the sale goes through, we will need a new senior center,” Council President Dick Jordan said. “We need to start developing a plan to get it up for construction as quickly as possible.”
Jordan said Public Services Director Todd Nix has developed a preliminary estimate that sets the cost of building a new center at about $2.6 million.
Haddock said some long-range planning is needed before decisions are made.
“I want us to visualize where we will be in five or 10 years. What if the entertainment district takes off in east Florence? Where will the Street Department offices (on Railroad Avenue)) go,” he asked. “We need to place all the options on the table before we make a decision.”
It appears certain the council will adopt a resolution Tuesday authorizing Haddock to negotiate the sale of the property, but he is taking a cautious approach.
“We want to do our due diligence and be certain this is a good fit for Florence,” he said.
Officials with the Chinese company say they visualize having at least 1,000 students involved in the research program at some point.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.