Birmingham group rallies against a proposal to lease old Social - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Birmingham group rallies against a proposal to lease old Social Security Building

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A community group is rallying against Birmingham city leaders' possibly spending nearly $139 million to lease part of the Social Security Building downtown over a 30-year lease.

City leaders are looking for a space for a new mixed-use development and public safety headquarters.

The Citizens' Coalition for a Better Birmingham says the money could be better used for transportation, education, health facilities and getting rid of abandoned houses. More than a dozen people gathered outside City Hall before Tuesday's City Council meeting.

"We have to be proactive. We have to stand up and say no to this," Dickerson. "We are not going to pay that kind of money to lease two floors of a building," Group Member Brenda Dickerson says.

City leaders have discussed three proposals, including the leasing the Social Security building and buying the Old Carraway Hospital. ABC 33/40 learned they also discussed the possibility of buying the old Amsouth building.

Franklin Haney, a Chattanooga-based developer, owns the Social Security building. Records show he donated to a PACT from which several councilors and Mayor Bell received campaign donations. The group believes that's why some city leaders are considering the option.

"We might as well call ourselves 'Bombingham' because that is what is what will happen. The mayor will drop a bomb on our neighborhoods if he spends that kind of money," Dickerson says.

Councilman William Parker has been pushing to use the old Carraway Hospital. He says it would cost $40 to $60 million to rebuild or renovate that building. But members of the group argue it may be too large for a public safety headquarters. They also say they don't have enough information on the option.

The group demands public hearings about all options, the options to be open for bids and full disclosure of all campaign donations and gifts city leaders received related to the proposals.

They say they don't support one option over the other. But they would like full information to be made public.

The Council insists it has not supported any proposal. It hopes to look over all options. The group is expected to discuss the old Carraway Hospital option further during a Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday.

Stay with ABC 33/40 for more on this developing story.

 

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