Athens community park replacement hits stalemate

Updated: Jan. 14, 2020 at 6:12 PM CST
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ATHENS, Ala. (WAFF) - There is some controversy surrounding a historic park in Athens and how it will be replaced. But City Council members want more information before they green light the project.

The Jimmy GIll Park, named after the former Athens city councilman, was one of the first parks south of U.S. 72 serving a predominantly black community. Last year, Toyota purchased the land for a supply plant.

“We were told as a community that the park would be replaced in its present condition, which was last year, or better, so we were thinking as a community it wasn’t going to cost anything," said Limestone NAACP president Wilbert Woodruff.

Toyota gave $300,000 toward the new park while the city of Athens claimed it was forking over $600,000. That money was held to a 2-2 vote at Monday’s City Council meeting, leaving the new park funding in a stalemate.

Councilmen Harold Wales and Wayne Harper both voted against the funding.

“I want to see how the money is going to be spent. I want a breakdown of it," said Wales.

Wales says he’s not voting yes until he sees a breakdown from Mayor Ronnie Marks and his committee.

Community members who were anticipating a new park say they feel blindsided.

“I’m very disappointed as a member of this Athens city community, and I’m very disappointed as a member of the NAACP who fights for people’s rights," Woodruff said.

Wales says he’s hoping to get the specifics of the funding by the end of the week so the council can vote on it again.

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