Council discusses work done to buildings

Artist Harvey Olson works on painting his mural in the space used by the Wills Valley Model Railroaders Club. The city council presented him with a proclamation expressing appreciation for the job he did working on it. 

Work is underway to gut and demolish the old DeKalb General Hospital. The Fort Payne City Council approved a low bid of $559,265 at its Sept. 7 meeting for Ingle Demolition & Salvage of Birmingham to remove the structure located at the 1300 block of Forest Avenue North.

It was built in 1950 and served as the county’s hospital until 1986, then as a retirement community until 2003. The structure has sat unoccupied since 2013.

Mayor Brian Baine said the process of asbestos removal is underway, which will take approximately eight to 10 weeks to finish. The presence of the material is a major reason the city hasn’t previously bulldozed the property, as asbestos was widely used for much of the 20th century for construction and fireproofing. Care must be taken when removing it because inhalation of microscopic particles can lead to conditions such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Baine said he plans a media event to mark the start of the structure’s actual bulldozing with former Mayor Larry Chesser on hand. The vendor will then haul away the remnants of the site to the landfill as the property is cleared for alternate uses.

At the same Council meeting, the City recognized an artist who enhanced a different building. The Wills Valley Model Railroaders Club occupies space on the second floor of the Opera House block above the Depot Museum Annex. The Council expressed its appreciation to Harvey Olson, who spent months painting a large mural that portrays the United States from coast to coast, a portion highlighting Fort Payne’s historic role as a railroad Boom Town in the 1880s and beyond.

Jimmy Carter spoke on behalf of the club, saying they started in summer 2013 with four members constructing model railroads on large tabletops. The club now has 14 members and three associate members. The mural looks down upon the toy tracks, spanning 59 feet wide and seven feet in height.

“Fort Payne is unique in having that kind of representation in a model railroad room, and none of it would have been possible without the city council,” Carter said. He estimated the members had volunteered roughly 10,000-12,000 man hours in creating the display, which has delighted guests seeing it during past Boom Days events.

The City appropriated $3,650 to sustain the Wills Valley Model Train Club in the new budget.

Also at the Sept. 7 meeting, the Council:

• amended a tax abatement granted to The Children’s Place to reflect an additional $9 million capital investment at its distribution center on Airport Road. DeKalb County Economic Development Authority Director Jimmy Durham said this does not abate the local school taxes of $794,791 generated by operations the facility and reflects funds the City would not receive if the company had not increased its production and investment in Fort Payne.

• approved the vacation of a partial alley behind Jenni’s so Mater’s Pizza can add a drive-through window in the back.

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