Bear Creek reaches agreement with local business on rent cost

All members of the Bear Creek Town Council are in agreement on the new rental cost. From left, Heath Heatherly, James Loden, Jimmy Preston, Chris Gillum and Mayor Tammie Batchelor.

BEAR CREEK   - The Town of Bear Creek has determined they would have $150,000 more in their coffers had they orignally rented the 50,000 square foot building to Aluma-Lite Products LLC at the “reasonable” rate of rent finally decided upon during a recent special-called council meeting.
The topic of renting the “Miller building,” as it is commonly called, brought heated controversy to a previous Bear Creek administration. This topic, which was ongoing when former mayor Connie Morrison resigned, has now been resolved by the present council, which voted at the special-called meeting  to raise the monthly rent on the “Miller” building to $3,500 from $2,000.
The present administration, under Mayor Tammie Batchelor, had voted in May to raise the rent on the company Aluma-Lite Products LLC, located at 235 Hulsey Road, to $4,166 per month based on an older appraisal of the 50,000-square-foot building.  Aluma-Lite is a fabrication business which employs nine people.
 The council’s actions came after allegations from some town residents pointed out the town had lost funding through the years by not gathering enough rent to match what the building was truly worth.
However, at the time the council voted to increase the rent to $4,166 in May, they did not have an official appraisal on the building  to see what it was worth versus what they were charging for rent, town officials said.

The town council noted the $4,166 per month rent on the building was out of line, with company officials saying they could not afford the price, town officials said.
So, around July, town officials and Aluma-Lite officials began negotiations for a lower rent payment. Aluma-Lite agreed to continue to pay $2,000 as set forth in the original lease agreement while the town was negotiating with them.
In January, 2013, a previous town council approved a five-year lease agreement with Aluma-Lite for the company to pay $2,000 a month rent for a five-year period, noted Town Attorney Cole Christopher.
That agreement ran out in January, 2018. The town has been collecting from the company $2,000 rent on a month-to-month basis since that time, Christopher explained. By receiving this $2,000 amount, the town was pretty much just breaking even, not making any profit from the rental, town officials stated.
“The town was not gaining any type of profit from it at all,” noted Batchelor.

Since the town owns the 50,000-square-foot building, they make a $1,398.56 monthly payment on the building, along with paying $249 every six months for pest control for the building, as well as $128.62 per month for insurance.
This brings the grand total of what the town pays on the Miller building to $1,610.18.
The most recent appraisal of the building was done in September, with the town discussing with Aluma-Lite about the company paying $3,500 per month in rent based on the building’s appraised value.
“I am thankful we didn’t lose them,” Batchelor pointed out. “We’re excited they are still here and were willing to work through this with us. They (Aluma-Lite) didn’t want to sink any more money into the building, equipment or machinery, knowing they may have to relocate because things were so up in the air.
“It’s an additional $18,000 a year that comes into the town,” Batchelor pointed out. “It also gives the town the security that they are not leaving the town. We’ll still have the occupational tax coming in, as well.”
Instead of a lease agreement, the town will now have a contract with Aluma-Lite for the $3,500 a month rent, Christopher stated.
Aluma-Lite can increase employees and/or production now that the contract with the town is secured and everyone is on the same page regarding the amount of rent, Batchelor said.

“Now they can grow without hesitation, which will be huge for our town,” Batchelor stated. “We want to see them grow.”
The rent money goes into a building account, from which the town makes the payment, insurance and pest control service payments on the building housing the company, officials said.
Aluma-Lite opened its doors in Bear Creek in 2006.

Town resident Ronnie Freeman had visited past council meetings informing Morrison and past council members that the town could be receiving up to $50,000 a year on rent. Freeman claimed the town council had agreed to rent the building for only $2,000 a month when it should have been renting for at least $5,000 a month.

Although Freeman had claimed such an action was illegal, Christopher stated the council’s actions were legal. The issue was the rent the town had been collecting before was not feasible.

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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