Esther's Trumpet
Esther's Trumpet is inspired by the good folks in Alabama's Black Belt and Queen Esther in the Bible.  Both have courage.

September, 2014

LOWNDES COUNTY, ALABAMA EDITION 

PLAZA UNSAFE!

Hayneville:  In a press release made on September 8, 2014, the Lowndes County Commission released the following:  These are the exact words of the Commission’s statement:

 

LOWNDES COMMISSION TO CLOSE HAYNEVILLE PLAZA FOR SAFETY OF CITIZENS

At its August 25th regular meeting, the Lowndes County Commission took steps to close the Hayneville Plaza.  “We must put the safety of our citizens and businesses first”, said Commissioner Brent Crenshaw.  “We want the convenience of the Plaza for our citizens and businesses but we cannot risk their safety in a building that is unsafe for human use”.

 

Commissioner Carnell McAlpine said, “We have been advised that the Plaza was never built to commercial specifications.  It was built to house specifications.  It’s not safe for the public or for businesses.  We have to do something”.  The Plaza has been found seriously deficient by six different entities:  Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood; Davita; Gordon L. Davis, Structural Engineering Consultant; Meadowbrook Insurance Group; Star Insurance Company and Franklin Engineering.  Each entity was independent.  After five other entities pronounced the Plaza seriously deficient, Goodwyn, Mills &Cawood were asked to inspect the building because they had no prior interest.  After that inspection, they strongly advised the Commission to cease using the Plaza immediately.  The Commission voted to ask all businesses to vacate the building as soon as they could find another place but no later than December 1, 2014.  All other events for the Plaza have been cancelled and no other events will be scheduled. 

 

The Commission has not decided how to handle the Plaza in the future.  Estimates to properly repair the building to meet commercial specifications run $2.4 million or even more.  “This building should have been inspected by an architect and construction engineer before the county purchased it”, said Commissioner McAlpine.  “You do not purchase a building for millions of dollars without fully checking it out. “  Commissioner Dickson Farrior said, “I did not vote for the county to purchase the Hayneville Plaza.  Neither did Commissioner Joey Barganier.  We opposed this purchase because it was not good for the county.”

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Now sit down, get a cup of coffee or a drink, relax and get comfy.  This is long, but it needs to be said and you know when the Man upstairs tells me to tell it, I have to do that. 

 

PLAZA BUILDING WAS A FRAUD FROM THE BEGINNING

by Barbara Evans

 

The Plaza building was hurriedly purchased without proper investigation and everybody who was involved knew it.  Dickson Farrior and Joey Barganier knew it and voted NO.to buying the building.  Marzett Thomas always did as Charlie said, and she voted yes.   Robert Harris and Charlie King knew  that the building was poorly constructed, but voted YES.  Harris and King had to know it.  Both say they are contractors!  (Brent Crenshaw and Carnell McAlpine were not even on the Lowndes County Commission ) At the time, many of us wondered what the hurry was.  I complained to Mr. Bell that I did not feel the building was safe because while attending events I felt the second floor shake.  The air conditioning didn’t work well.  The finish carpentry was poor.   Yes there were chandeliers, but the materials were cheap.  Cheap carpet.  Cheap fixtures.  Now,  I liked Mr. Bell and felt I owed him the truth.  He assured me that the building had been appraised for well over the asking price of $3.2 million.  Because Farrior, Barganier and anybody with any kind of intelligence were aware that if the broadband project failed, the county would be stuck with the huge bill.  Many of us had absolutely no confidence in King, Harris,  and McCall’s efforts to pull off the broadband project.  Of course we were proven correct.  So to offset growing community protests about buying the building, Bell and
King organized a large group of citizens to attend a county commission meeting to try to push through the sale and pressure Commissioners Farrior and Barganier. After that meeting, I was accosted by a member of the Hayneville Town Council.  I couldn’t help but wonder why they were pushing so hard and why they were in such a hurry.  Now I know why.  King, Harris & Bell knew all the time that building was unfit, unsafe and all they cared about was making money from the sale.  They got their buddies to put on the pressure.  I sure hope those folks have learned their lesson and will start thinking for themselves.



 continued.....

One of the joys of writing Esther’s Trumpet is that I have a historic record of facts.  For many months, a piece I wrote in April of 2012 called, “The Story  of How They Screwed Up the Broadband Project” was on my website at www.estherstrumpet.com.  At that time, with Charlie King as the Commission Chair, it was hard to find facts because facts were hidden from the public.  I had to attend all the meetings and dig for information because the trio of King, Bell and McCall were trying to keep the facts quiet.  That’s what crooks do when they are trying to hide their wrongdoing.  Everybody knew that there had been no decent appraisal of the Plaza.  In fact, it is my understanding that the firm that finally did the appraisal is out of business and that appraisal is NOT the type that determines the safety and quality of the building.  That appraisal just repeated the lies they were told, that there were 11 tenants in the building, and just determined how much income the building would bring.  Of course it was all based on lies.  I have a copy of that document.  There were never 11 tenants.  Nowhere in any of the seller’s paperwork was it mentioned that the Plaza was built on residential standards rather than commercial standards.  That’s like using a VW beetle to pull an 18 wheeler trailer across the country.  Any builder, construction person, realtor, architect or structural engineer knows this. 

 

No bank was involved  in the sale of the building to the county because the building was paid for from money from a bond.  So there was no bank appraisal.  We did not borrow from a bank; we borrowed with floating a bond.  The bonding company’s guarantee we would pay back the money for the Plaza building was guaranteed by what can be described as a levy on our taxes for 20 years.   And of course, as insurance companies usually do, the building remained insured based on it’s outward appearance and the fact that the County is a credible customer.  All that changed, however, when there was weather damage to the Plaza and the insurance adjustors and their experts got inside and saw the actual condition of that building.   That’s when the insurance company moved to drop the building.

 

Nowhere was it mentioned that the Plaza was built on residential standards rather than commercial standards.  That’s like using a VW beetle to pull a 18 wheel trailer across the country.  Any builder, construction person, realtor, architect or structural engineer knows this.  The sellers just counted on the fact the public wouldn’t know it and that we were fool enough to trust Charlie King.  Nobody will ever convince me that King, Harris and Thomas did not make some money from the sale of the Plaza to the County.  And King and Harris, being contractors  had to know that the building was unsafe and poorly built and he did not care that he was risking the lives of those who used the building.  That’s what is shocking to me.  I always knew they were crooks.  But to put the lives of our people in danger, well, that’s pure evil.

 

By the time the new commissioners took office, the broadband project had fallen through, and we were stuck.  The new Commission tried to make the best of things.  One attempt was to rent to DaVita, a medical company that provides dialysis.  DaVita called in their experts to examine the building because part of their operation involves the installation of huge tanks.  Long story short, DaVita said thanks but no thanks. The building would not support those big tanks.   Still, the County sank several thousand dollars to make repairs after the weather incident because they wanted to keep the tenants and the ballroom open.  And at this point there was still insurance on the building.  NOW THERE IS NONE !

 

It was the insurance company’s dropping of the policy that alerted the Commission that things were much worse than anyone thought.  So experts were called in; structural engineers with excellent reputations, some of whom we had used in the past.  And that’s when the bomb dropped that the building was structurally unsafe and tenants needed to get out as soon as possible.  And of course, we have no insurance on that building right now!  It could collapse from a weather event, people could be hurt right now!  And we still have Harris going around telling folks it is not that bad.  It is my belief that Harris, King, and Bell have known how unsafe the Plaza is all along and had no problem putting our people at risk.  What kind of people do that?

The only realistic way to “save” the building is to tear it down and rebuild it.  We cannot do that because for the next 30 years we will be paying over $300,000 a year for the Plaza, thanks to the past failure of the people in Lowndes County to stand up against the crooks .  Thank you also to a District Attorney who refuses to stop the fraudulent activity and an Attorney General that continually drops the ball.  While I am at it, let me also mention the State Fire Inspector who did not pursue charges after the strip mall burned to the ground because in part  it had no fire walls.  Nobody gives a damn about Lowndes County because they think we don’t give a damn about ourselves.  If we did, we would not be putting up with all this stuff.

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This whole building mess was part of the broadband fiasco.  Remember, we had to buy the Plaza because Aaron McCall said only that building would be a fit for the Broadband Project.  Never mind all the empty buildings in White Hall.  It had to be the Plaza.  He probably got a cut as well.  And what kills me is that they are still fooling the public with their endless articles in The Lowndes Signal pretending that SCABC is a viable entity when it is completely defunct, out of money, out of time and has no support.  No private investor is going to trust an organization with a convicted felon , a deposed and disgraced racist commissioner and a indicted mayor, all of whom have a history of deceit, fraud and ill gotten gains.  If they have a private investor, then show me the money, and stop trying to make money on the backs of Lowndes County.  Do what the rest of us do; live simply, within your means, do an honest days work for an honest days pay and stop trying to rip folks off. 

 

But, as I always say, God sees to it that something good always comes from something bad.  We have a new day with our Lowndes County Commission.  Most of them are decent, honest people who want the best for Lowndes County.  Most of them are smart and know that you must do research and get training to do that job properly.  We, the people, have learned some hard lessons.  Maybe we will one day pass building codes to protect our people.  Some of us have learned to speak up and some of us are accepting that failure to speak out in the face of evil is just like committing the evil yourself.  We have a good school system that is getting better, and as our people embrace education and learning, we will get better and better.  And I thank God that nobody was killed or injured in that despicable Plaza building .  Thank you, Jesus.  The truth is out.