By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News
The Gardendale City Council dropped two bombshells tonight.
First, the council announced Gardendale’s intention to separate from the Jefferson County School system and create an independent school system. The move follows a study by Dr. Ira Harvey that indicated Gardendale could financially support its own school system.
Second, Publix is really coming, according to council members. Such has been said since 2008, but Mayor Othell Phillips said the city on Friday closed with Preferred Growth Properties, which just bought the Century Shoppes from Century Retail. Preferred Growth Properties is a subsidiary of Books-a-Million.
“I feel we have completed our due diligence in determining the feasibility of forming our own city school system,” said City Council President Stan Hogeland.
However, in ordre to adequately fund a new system, the city would have to enact a 10-mill property tax dedicated to the school system.
“We wan the citizens of Gardendale to be behind the school system and it will require a vote of the people,” Hogeland said.
The city has not set a date for a referendum.
Another looming question is, what about Mt. Olive?
Gardendale officials as well as Mt. Olive residents have discussed the possibility of Gardendale annexing Mt. Olive.
But the cost and revenue comparisons “do not appear to be favorable,” according to a press release from the city.
Phillips, Hogeland and all other council members said they are keeping discussions open about annexing Mt. Olive. If it doesn’t happen, they have committed to encouraging the Gardendale School Board — which doesn’t yet exist — to grandfather in Mt. Olive students.
The city will host a groundbreaking on Publix and T.J. Maxx on July 30.
Hogeland said it will be in the evening, and will be a celebration, not just a simple ceremony.
“The single most frequently-asked question of the mayor and council has been, ‘but what about Publix?’” Hogeland said. “Well, that question has now been answered. We’ve endured the skepticism and jokes, even though we all knew we were working hard to make this happen.”
The city will announce a date later for a tentative completion date for the project.
Keep an eye on www.njeffersonnews.com and in our print edition for more news from tonight’s city council meeting.