Wallace property could be site of technology village
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A Morgan County government coalition is asking Gov. Bob Riley to deed the Lurleen Wallace Center property to the Morgan County Economic Development Association for use as a technology village.
The property, which consists of 160 acres and 21 permanent buildings, has been vacant for more than a year and has been subject to question as to its future use by the state.
At one time, it was suggested that the facility might be converted into a drug rehabilitation center. However, that possibility was squelched after local elected officials and community leaders met with the state's mental health director and a representative of the governor's office to oppose the idea. Local officials were then invited to come up with their own plan for its use.
At a meeting of the county's mayors and commissioners in Hartselle Thursday evening, Decatur Mayor Don Kyle sought support to seek title to the property from the state. He proposed in a letter to Gov. Riley that the property be marketed as a "technology village" within the recently recognized technology corridor that extends from Morgan County through east Tennessee and into southeast Kentucky.
He suggested it could be used to support research and development, think tanks, high tech manufacturing, systems analysts, technical training and off-campus college courses.
"With room almost gone in our Mallard-Fox Industrial Park, it is our desire to enter the 'clean industry' market that has thrived in Huntsville," he added. "This facility would allow us to jump start our efforts and eliminate the need for the State Health Department to continue to provide maintenance support."
The letter was written over the names of seven mayors and the Morgan County Commission chairman. When they were asked what they thought of the idea and if they would be willing to sign the letter, they all agreed that it was a win-win for the county and said they would sign. They also agreed to go to the state capitol as a delegation and to hand carry the letter to the governor's office.
"We don't need to wait," Somerville Mayor Ray Long said. "We need to get this letter in the hands of the governor as soon as possible."
Commission Chairman John Glasscock added, "I propose that we ask Mayor Kyle to start tomorrow to get an appointment with the governor. Don't let this letter go to sleep."
"This is our opportunity to develop a high tech jobs incubator," Kyle said. "The infrastructure is in place. We can be generating revenue for the county and state while we wait for the Mallard-Fox Industrial Park bond to pay off. We would be in a good position to lease all or part of the buildings to high tech industries."