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November 26, 2012

CCBOE moving forward with Section 16 land steering committee

CULLMAN — As questions linger over exactly how the Cullman County Board of Education will take over control of three Section 16 properties spread across the county, officials are moving forward with plans to create a board to help shepherd and steward the potential revenue windfall.

Earlier this month voters approved a measure by a wide margin to give the school system control of 321 acres in Joppa, 122 acres in Chigger Ridge and 435 acres on Smith Lake. Officials believe the Smith Lake lot holds the most potential, as it includes 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.

But, to ensure the current board’s plan remains in place, officials want to create a community board to help oversee the funds.

“We need to establish a foundation, a policy, so that even when we’re all gone this will still be used for the benefit of our students,” board member Wendy Crider said. “We want other minds to come in and make it better, but not throw out what we’ve done.”

Superintendent Billy Coleman said the school board is in the early phases of seeking out potential board members for the proposed 13-person committee. Potential members could include former educators, area business members, a representative from the city system and other members of the local community.

If current plans remain on track, the board hopes to have the membership for the board set by the first of 2013.

“We need to go through the process of talking to people to see if they’re interested,” he said.

To avoid any conflicts of interest, Coleman noted than any member of the board will have their business excluded from any potential dealings with the system in regards to the property.

“Anybody involved in the board, their business will be exempt from what we’re doing and they can’t be involved in the project,” he said. “We need to send a clear message that if you’re on the board you can’t be considered.”

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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