Town Council OK's $250,000 Land Purchase; Property Shows Contamination From Old Landfill, Officials Say

Published 3:21 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2015

FARMVILLE — Town council held a special called meeting Friday to approve a $250,000 purchase agreement associated with a property transaction approved two days earlier at its regular March monthly meeting.

The published public hearing notice described the deal as: “the proposed transfer/sale of a +/- .885 acre parcel located adjacent to 2308 W. 3rd St. on US Route 460 (Bus) in the Town of Farmville to George R & Kay M. Bristol in exchange for a +/- 8.05 acre parcel, located adjacent to the old landfill near the ‘Field of Dreams’ on W. Third St./US 460 (bus).”

The public hearing was held Wednesday night prior to council’s unanimous approval of that advertised proposal.

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But the second component of the deal, the purchase agreement, was not among the evening’s agenda items and was not mentioned during Wednesday night’s meeting.

The Town is also paying the Bristols $250,000 as part of the transaction, buying the property that Town officials say has shown, via well samples, contamination from the old Town landfill.

Town council approved the purchase agreement Friday afternoon after a closed session to receive consultation via telephone from legal counsel, Town Attorney Andrea Erard.

Prior to the closed session, Mayor David E. Whitus responded to a question from The Herald about the need to meet in executive session by explaining town council had never approved the purchase agreement and required consultation with Erard.

Following the vote on Friday to approve the purchase agreement, Erard offered to answer any questions from The Herald and the newspaper said the public is going to want to know why the $250,000 wasn’t a part of the public hearing notice and why it wasn’t mentioned during the meeting on Wednesday night.

Erard explained that state law requires a public hearing on the disposition of publicly held land and noted the purchase agreement has been a public document ever since it was finalized on March 2.

“It was an oversight that the purchase agreement was not included on the agenda (Wednesday night),” she said. “So there was no intent to hide any details of the transaction from the public. It’s just that we were focused on making sure that the law was complied with as far as the required public hearing.”

Erard said she told town council that she “thought about asking why the purchase agreement wasn’t on the agenda (Wednesday night) but, I just didn’t. And so we just need to be more thorough in our procedural stuff in the future.

“I can tell you, I’ve been doing this for a long time now and I take tremendous pride in my integrity and in my ethics and I feel very strongly about government transparency and can I assure you there was nothing underhanded here,” she said, “at all.”

During Wednesday night’s meeting, Town Manager Gerald Spates had described the deal as “an exchange with Mr. Bristol for utilizing his property as part of the landfill for testing.”

The Herald had asked Town officials on Thursday afternoon, noting the acreage differences, if any cash was also involved in the transaction approved the night before and was told, yes, and the amount is $250,000.

Spates told the newspaper on Thursday that, “council discussed that in executive session and they should have come out when they made this motion…It’s $250,000. They should have made a motion in public, so what we’re going to have to do is I’m going to see if they want to have a special council meeting…and go ahead and formally approve it. They were in consensus to do the transaction. Because, what’s happened with the landfill, they’ve actually gone over on George Bristol’s property to (put in wells).”

That is the reason behind the deal.

The Bristol property is adjacent to the Town’s old landfill and extraction wells on the Bristol property have shown contamination, Town officials say.

“There’s contamination in those wells,” Spates said, “but we’re treating that now, so it’s being discharged into our system.

“But we’re sure that’s the extent of the damage right there. Hopefully, this is going to correct the problem,” the town manager told the newspaper.

Spates credited Bristol and praised his cooperation with the Town over the wells.

“George has been very good to work with. He’s allowed us to go on the property for the last year and a half and use the property…But it’s going to be a more permanent arrangement now. We don’t know how long the wells are going to be there. They may be there two years, they may be there five years or 10 years. We don’t know,” Spates said.

The town manager explained that with the extraction wells “you pump the water out, you test it, and hopefully any contamination that was in the ground is cleared up.”

When asked if the Town had any reason to believe there has been further migration of contaminates, Spates replied, “no, we’re hoping it’s not.”

And, he pointed out, “Everybody’s hooked up to Town water, so nobody’s using it for drinking water.”