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Nick Shepherd

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High bidder stuck in limbo after city hall auction in Bluff City

May 14th, 2014 11:35 pm by Nick Shepherd

High bidder stuck in limbo after city hall auction in Bluff City

Bluff City's old city hall. Nick Shepherd photo.

BLUFF CITY — Sherry Grubb put in the winning bid for the old city hall building in Bluff City, and now she wonders why the Board of Mayor and Aldermen has yet to approve the sale.

Grubb submitted the winning bid of $9,700 on March 26. The bid was going back to the BMA for approval — a mere formality, she believed. When the motion came up to approve the sale, however, there was no second to go forward with a vote. So now Grubbs is stuck in limbo.

"I got the high bid," she said. "They were going to pay to have it torn down. They did not put a minimum bid on it, and there was no appraisal."

Grubb owns a photography business and has for the past 28 years. She has kept an eye on the building ever since Bluff City vacated it and was interested in purchasing the old city hall for her business.

The building is in need of extensive repairs, which is why in October 2013, the BMA voted to tear it down and began to accept bids for demolition. Demolishing the building would have cost taxpayers $25,000.

Grubb attended the next month's meeting and informed the board of her desire to purchase the building. She asked the board to reconsider the motion to tear the building down.

Selling or demolishing the building was discussed, and the decision to go forward with a public auction was voted on and approved. A minimum bid was discussed, with the board wanting at least $15,000 for the building, but no action was taken and no vote was taken. It was also suggested that the board could have the final sale come back for approval, but no action or vote was taken on the matter, Grubb said.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey volunteered his time and expertise to auction off the building. At the beginning of the bidding process, he informed the potential buyers that the sale was not a binding agreement to purchase the building.

Once Grubb had placed the winning bid, she signed the paperwork and paid the 10 percent deposit. Then, she waited for the BMA to reconvene on April 10 to vote for approval of the sale. They never approved it.

Alderman Lon Gene Leonard told her that two days after the sale, someone said they would have bid higher if they had been present at the auction. Alderman Melvin Carrier told her a citizen had approached him to say the building was sold too cheap and the land alone was worth $9,500.

Grubb believes the waiting is not good for her or the city.

"I'm trying to get my business out of my house," she said. "It would be an asset to Bluff City, but right now it's a liability. It's ignorant."

Grubb said she fully understands the amount of work needed to fix the building and said her family would do the restoration.

She said she has sought legal council and believes she has a strong case against the city. She said it is getting to the point where her decision is whether or not to file a lawsuit.

At the May 8 meeting, the BMA again took no action on the sale and instead voted to have a workshop on May 19 on what to do about the building.

"The bid would be subject to approval of the board," City Attorney J. Paul Frye said.

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