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11 January 2008
JSU Asks Jacksonville for Donation

Matt Kasper
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

JACKSONVILLE Jacksonville State University has asked the $100,000 question.

Now the only question is: What will the council decide?

The answer will come next Friday, when council members will tell the mayor whether they approve or disapprove of donating $100,000 to the university, before the mayor asks the council to vote.

Members of the Jacksonville Finance Committee met Thursday afternoon to discuss the donation first proposed by JSU President Bill Meehan.

On Dec. 20, Meehan approached the council to ask the city to donate $20,000 per year, over the course of five years, as part of the university's $20 million capital projects fundraiser.

Following the proposal, Mayor Johnny Smith said he would like to see any donation of city funds linked to city projects or needs.

He reiterated his position Thursday to the Council, while at the same time expressing a desire to help the university because of the large role it plays in the community as an employer and more.

"It's kind of a difficult thing for me to do," he said, mentioning concerns about employee morale if they give the university money while the city operates on a seemingly tight budget.

"I'm still in kind of a 'if we do it mode."

Councilman George Areno said he would like to see any donation or money committed to a project already planned trying to suggest university projects that would work for the city he said might be unnecessary interference.

Areno said though the city gives tax breaks to businesses which generate income for the city, he said the donation is different even though JSU does attract restaurants and other businesses that might not ordinarily be in the city.

One suggestion for a joint project is a proposed 26 court tennis facility in which residents, high school students and JSU students would have access, said Bo Batey, Jacksonville Parks and Recreation director.

But he said the tennis courts would most likely not be clay courts, which some resident tennis players have requested.

"I don't see how we can not give something," said Councilman Truman Norred at the conclusion of the meeting.

Areno proposed possibly donating half the amount of requested money.

Notar said he favors donating the money in full if it is tied to a project like the tennis courts.

In other news, Mayor Smith said the city received a permit from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to begin work on installing pipe lining to pump water purchased from Anniston to northern sections of the city.

Piping bids were awarded to three different companies at the Dec. 20 meeting.

"We will try and start Monday morning," Smith said.

About Matt Kasper

Matthew Kasper covers Jacksonville, Piedmont, Ohatchee and Alexandria for The Star.

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