By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
With the campaign over, Cullman County Board of Education officials now look to the future in regards to the Section 16 land they hope will create a new long-term source of revenue for the system.
Voters approved a measure earlier this month to give the school system control of 321 acres in Joppa, 122 acres in Chigger Ridge and 435 acres on Smith Lake — including 25,000 feet of shoreline that could be worth several million dollars.
County school officials plan to either develop or sell the property, then place 90 percent of any revenue from the land into a trust and use the interest as a new source of revenue for the system. Funds will be split between both local school systems, with the county receiving 83 percent and the city allocated 17 percent based on student population.
“A whole lot of people really worked hard to make that happen,” Superintendent Billy Coleman said. “I want to thank the people of Cullman County for putting their trust in our system to manage this. Now we have to move forward.”
The first step, which the school board discussed at a recent work session, is creating a new committee to help ensure the potential revenue is used correctly.
“We’ve talked about some principles behind setting up a steering community and everybody is thinking on that now, and we’re going to come back together and get everyone’s thoughts,” Coleman said. “I feel like our first step is to form some type of steering committee to put some policies in place and make sure we’re all on the same page. Our main goal is to make sure we preserve the vision, when this finally does start funding the system, that it perpetuates itself forever.”
Considering the complexity of the vote, with the land changing stewardship from the state to the county, Coleman said the board is also investigating the logistical hurdles that could surface in the coming months.
“We’re looking into that now and we need to get some legal documents that show where we are in regards to the land,” he said.
The board also plans to tour the affected property soon to gather information on exactly what assets they now control.
“We want to go and look at the property now and see what we have, and just take it one step at a time,” Coleman said. “It’s common knowledge that, with the economy how it is, the value of that property is not what it could be right now. We feel having this committee will be a way to bring some expertise from the community and businesses.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.