County misses a bargain, by a month, for new convenience center land

Sep. 05, 2013 @ 11:10 PM

The county purchased property earlier this year for a new convenience center in the New Center area at a price of $125,000, but if officials had looked at the property a little earlier they might have had a chance to buy it for about half that price.

The county’s government operations committee began looking to relocate the New Center convenience center in February, according to minutes from the committee meeting, after owners of the current site near Pittman Center Road announced they wanted to end their lease.

In May the budget committee, and ultimately the county commission as a whole, accepted the government operation committee’s recommendation to purchase new property on Newport Highway at South Flat Creek Road from real estate agent E. Shane Patterson and developer Jim Ogle for $125,000.

The two had purchased the land from National Bank of Tennessee — based in Newport — just weeks before, on April 9, at the price of $65,000.

Patterson — who said he has no relationship to Assistant County Mayor Greg Patterson — told The Mountain Press this week that he had been negotiating to buy the foreclosure property from the bank for several months, with the intention of holding it for a while to see if it increased in value when the county goes ahead with plans to build a new school across the highway.

“I bought it with the idea to hold it long-term until the school ... was built, and then the opportunity came up that the county was looking for a new place for a dump or a convenience center,” he said.

After months of negotiations he said he was finally able to come to terms with the bank on a value that took into account that the bank was looking to move the property off its books and didn’t involve another realtor working for the bank.

A spokesperson for the bank failed to return repeated calls seeking comment for this story.

When Patterson and Ogle learned the county was looking to buy the property, they submitted their property for consideration, he said.

Meanwhile, discussion of the need for a new convenience center in the area first appeared to arise at the Feb. 5 meeting of the Government Operations Committee.

At that time, the minutes indicate “(Sevier Solid Waste Director Dan) King said he had discussion with the owner of the Newport Highway convenience center property about a long-term lease. (Assistant County Mayor) Greg Patterson reminded the committee of the current leases with convenience centers. He also stated the Newport (Highway) site was the busiest one in the county.”

In an interview this week, Greg Patterson also said he had no relationship with the realtor or with Ogle.

Patterson usually takes part in Government Operations Committee meetings, and was active in the selection process for the new center.

During the February meeting, King noted “the county has other properties that could be options,” according to the minutes, and Patterson discussed some sites with commissioners. The minutes don’t name the other sites the county was considering; they say the committee asked King to research the potential sties and come back with more information.

This week, he said the Flat Creek property was included in the initial list he got from the county, but that he believed Shane Patterson and Jim Ogle had purchased the property before the county became involved.

At the next meeting, on March 7, King reported the right of way for one site had been denied, and Patterson mentioned property near where Pittman Center Road runs out on Newport Highway. The 6.58-acre site, near the new Walgreen’s pharmacy and Weigel’s store, had been appraised at $329,000, according to the minutes. The assistant mayor also said they were looking at other sites.

There is no record in the minutes books of the governmental operations committee meeting in April; County Spokesman Perrin Anderson said it appeared the meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum. But during that month, Shane Patterson and Jim Ogle purchased the property and, when the committee met again, it had emerged as a top site.

King said this week that, even after the price increase, the Flat Creek property was still cheaper than the other properties and was in a central location in the New Center district. Patterson added that the county got its own appraisal for the site, and the new owners agreed to sell at that price.

Commissioner Randy Williams doesn’t serve on the government operations committee, but he does serve the New Center area and attended meetings about the convenience center.

He said he recommended the committee buy the Flat Creek site because it was the best price and in a good center location.

The government operation committee, budget committee and county commission approved the site on unanimous votes, according to the minutes.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com