Council to decide fate of historic house in Maplesville

Published 12:12 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The owner of the Foshee house in Maplesville asked for the council’s help Tuesday night in deciding what to do with it after the Jan. 23 tornado dealt the house considerable damage.

Ovid Merchant of Randolph bought the house and surrounding property about five years ago and has maintained it ever since, but the storm damage has created a financial dilemma he does not want to face alone.

“I fell in love with the house (and) tried to keep the historical value,” Merchant said. “We tried to preserve what we could. We just can’t bring back the glory of the house.”

The giant Bitternut Hickory tree in the backyard also fell during the tornado.

The tree was named the Alabama Champion tree of its species by the Alabama Forestry Commission in 2008 and was part of the house’s history.

Merchant proposed to donate the house to the town, along with $10,000 to try to preserve the interior woodworking that caught his eye five years ago.

“I’d like to see it brought back,” Merchant said. “I’d hate to see it torn down.”

Tearing it down, however, is Merchant’s other option if the town decides not to accept ownership.

The estimated cost of replacing the house’s roof and repairing structural damages is $47,000.

Mayor Aubrey Latham said the council would make a decision and notify Merchant by Feb. 21.

The council voted to give $100 to Diane Clapp of the Chilton County Master Gardeners for a beautification project in Maplesville.

Clapp said she wanted to landscape and maintain the sidewalks near the post office.

Fire Chief Michael Abbott said the department’s new air compressor equipment has been installed and used already, but the firehouse’s heating and cooling system is not working properly.

Police Chief Todd Ingram reported a decrease in traffic citations after the tornado, but arrests have gone up since January.

The town accepted bids on its two surplus vehicles and sold the Crown Victoria for $2,500 and the Suburban for $5,500.

Town Clerk Sheila Haigler said the balance of the sidewalk and street lighting grant is $28,338.47, which includes a processing fee of $250.

The town’s bills for January included roof repair and a new awning for the library and cleanup equipment rentals after the tornado.

“We have received $740 in donations for cleanup, and the fire department has received $700 for damage cleanup,” Haigler said.

Latham suggested the council start developing a disaster plan and collect money for emergency tools, such as an automatic generator for the town hall.

“Thanks to the other municipalities who came out and helped us in our time of need,” Councilman Ray Mitchell. “A big thanks to everybody for what they’ve done, and we really needed all that help. We would have done it for them, also.”

Maplesville Town Hall will be closed Monday, Feb. 20 for President’s Day.

The next council meeting will be Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m. because of the Presidential Primary Election on Tuesday, March 13.