Commission approves proposed lease for Greenetrack

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A lease between the Greene County Commission and Greenetrack is on the table. The commission voted Monday to offer a three-year lease for $150,000 a year to the business, which would hopefully put an end to the miscommunication between Greenetrack and the county government. Both sides presented their arguments Monday and their view on other leases in the county.

Commission Chairman Chip Beeker said this point had been argued since the beginning.

“This is an issue that we had in our meeting last month and many times before,” Beeker said. “We have discussed pretty much at length some of the things have been discussed. One of the major points is a lease agreement between the county and the stockholders at the track.”

Beeker said the process has not been an easy one as both sides have had problems with the wording of proposed leases.

“We have had difficulties to say the least,” Beeker said. “We are trying to get an agreement and it seems to be a never-ending situation. My position is not against anyone. I am not opposed to any of the stockholders and I am not opposed to any of the citizens.”

Beeker said in the beginning there was little push for a lease agreement. However, as time passed an agreement of some kind became a necessity.

“Since that time, we have attempted to enter into an agreement with the stockholders and the citizens of the county,” Beeker said. “That has been a difficult situation and I understand it has been made difficult because of some of the other lease agreements we have with other businesses in the county.”

Beeker explained the different lease agreements were to attract businesses that may not have normally been drawn to Greene County or their particular locations.

“We have different leases and agreements with different places,” Beeker said. “Some of those properties would probably not have come to the county had we not given them some help. It is not of major importance that is in the building or not. We have buildings out on the highway, two of them, and they are nice buildings. We are ready for anyone who wants to come into them. There are large buildings in the city limits. All of those are different in how we would negotiate with people to have things done.”

Beeker said his intention was to find the easiest, most balanced solution possible.

“There are many ways to go about this,” Beeker said. “I want to cause the least amount of confusion. I want to be equitable. Someone has to speak for the county and the people. We have plenty of people here to represent the stockholders. We don’t want to butt heads. We want to work something that is workable between us.”

Greenetrack stated they were also willing to work with the county. However, they want to be sure they are being treated fairly. Cathelean Steele, who was at the meeting representing Greenetrack, read a statement presenting the businesses view.

“Greenetrack Inc. and the Greene County Commission have been working to reach an agreement that will be fair and equitable for both entities,” Steele said. “Greenetrack Inc. has always been willing to pay a reasonable amount of rent and has always been on the table for negotiations.”

Steele said Greenetrack simply wanted to have a lease that was fair. She said many other businesses in the county have been given mre attractive agreements. Despite their feelings she said they were willing to negotiate.

“When we look at other businesses in the county and their lease agreements we feel we are not treated fairly,” Steele said. “However, in the best interest of Greenetrack and our efforts to help the economic standards of the county we are willing to pay a reasonable amount of rent.”

Steele said Greenetrack was pleased with the help they have received from all area leaders.

“We wish to thank Sen. Bobby Singleton and the commissioners,” Steele said. “With their efforts and hard work we will be able to get together both entities which will be beneficial to the economic development of Greene County.”

State Sen. Bobby Singleton also paid a surprise visit to the meeting to express his pleasure at seeing the two make an effort to come together.

“I am so proud and glad to see some resolve come this morning,” Singleton said. “Greenetrack is the largest employer in Greene County, with more than 400 employees and a very important part of Greene County.”

Singleton warned dissention would be disastrous for the people of Greene County. Singleton said it is important for them to reach an agreement and stick together to defend themselves from the spread of gambling to the rest of the state.

“Let me say to you right now in Montgomery I am all you’ve got,” Singleton said. “The fight that you have in Montgomery has to come through me. There is a spread in Montgomery to try to increase gambling in the state and that would effect Greenetrack and what you have now.”

Singleton said similar legislation in the past had a severe impact on Greenetrack.

“You saw what happened to you and the dog track when they opened Birmingham,” Singleton said. “The same type thing is going on right now and I am so glad it is resolved because it shows that the county is together and we can fight strong for Greenetrack.”

Singleton reminded them of what the track truly means to Greene County and the economy.

“What Greenetrack offers to this community is a lot,” Singleton said. “We have seen it with 911, the fire department and the school system. There is none other like it in the state of Alabama. What they do for their employees with 401 k and health care and other programs there is no other in the state of Alabama. Let’s keep what we have, lets keep it whole and I will continue to fight for that.”

AS for the proposed lawsuit, a motion passed directly after the commission approved the proposed lease stated the commission would not pursue legal action for the three years the lease was in effect.