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City of Decatur wants Public Facilities Authority to aid purchase of Children’s Home

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City of Decatur wants Public Facilities Authority to aid purchase of Children’s Home

The former United Methodist Children's Home campus in Decatur. The campus is now called Legacy Park. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

The United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

During a recent City Commission meeting commissioners asked for legislation that would allow the creation of a Decatur Public Facilities Authority.

It would be a “quasigovernmental agency” that the city could use to buy property for public use. State Sen. Elena Parent is sponsoring the legislation and said it’s intended to help the city buy the United Methodist Children’s Home.

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“It makes sense for them to do it that way with that protection in the law because of what they want the property to be used for, and it also gives the citizens some certainty and comfort that it will be used for the public good,” Parent said.

Mayor Patti Garrett confirmed that’s the intention of the legislation.

“It provides a mechanism for financing the purchase if we are successful,” she said. “That’s the reason.”

The Public Facilities Authority would be able to borrow money without having to ask voters to approve it in a referendum.

“If we went to do a GO bond, it would be a referendum and the soonest we could get a GO bond referendum would be in November,” she said.

The city is considering the purchase of the 77-acre property as a public amenity and would incorporate the sports fields, pool and gymnasium as part of the city’s Active Living Department. The property value is estimated to be somewhere north of $30 million. Garrett said she is confident the legislation will pass this year.

The former residents of the home who first alerted the public to the possibility of its sale are asking city commissioners to focus on preserving the historic buildings on the property. Several UMCH alums spoke at the Feb. 6 City Commission meeting. They want the commission to save the historic Moore Chapel.  The grave of the home’s founder, Jesse Boring, is on the site as well.

Commissioner Fred Boykin reminded the speakers that the city’s purchase of the home is not a certainty.

“We are interested as the buyer of the property,” he said. “We can make an offer. If anybody’s got any sway with them, you know how to get a hold of us. We’ll see how that plays out.”

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