City of Valley approves land lease partnership with hunting club

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2022

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VALLEY — A disagreement emerged at Monday’s meeting of the Valley City Council over a large tract of land where timber cutting will be taken place, as well as a proposed hunting lease on part of the same land.

The land in question is located between the Shawmut airport site and EAMC-Lanier hospital. Most of it’s a woodlands area bordering the Chattahoochee River.

The city recently purchased the land from the Scott family.

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A resolution to cut some timber on the land was proposed to the council by Mayor Leonard Riley. It was approved in a 7-1 vote with Council Member Jim Jones being opposed.

Jones said Facebook “had blown up” after the mayor had previously discussed cutting timber on the site at a recent meeting and the public needed to understand what was at stake.

30th Street cuts across the land not far from the river. Most of the land is on the south side of the road. The timber cutting will be taking place only on the north side and won’t be near any houses in the area. The Waterford subdivision is located nearby.

Planning & Development Director Travis Carter said no tree cutting would be taking place within 700 feet of the river.

W.J. Sorrell won the bid over two other competing firms. They offered $10.75 a ton for pine pulpwood, $22 a ton for seven-inch pine CNS, $12.50 a ton for hardwood pulpwood and $38.50 a ton for hardwood saw timber.

The hunting lease was in the form of a first reading of a proposed ordinance. According to council procedure, unless the rules are suspended to call for immediate action, the ordinance will have to have a second reading at the next regular meeting. Jones asked for the rules to be suspended to bring it up for discussion.

The proposed lease is between the city and the River Bottom Hunting Club, which includes Steven Bledsoe, Jake Power, Michael Landrum and Jason Osborne as members.

The club formerly had a lease with the Scott family and was seeking to extend that annual lease with the current property owner, the city.

Jones said it might be better to open it up to a bidding process.

“Giving others an opportunity to hunt there would have been the right thing to do,” Jones said. “Bow hunting started in October, and I bet a dollar to a doughnut somebody has already been hunting on that land without an approved lease.”

Jones said he was just trying to bring up points that needed to be discussed before the lease was approved.

“This is for one year,” he said, “but I think others should have an opportunity to bid on a lease when it’s up for renewal next year.”

A motion was made to approve the ordinance on a first reading. It was approved in a 5-2 vote with Jones and Council Member Randall Maddux opposed.

The lease involves 367 acres of city-owned land and has an annual fee of $3,670. The lease is retroactive to Sept. 1 and expires on Sept. 1, 2023. It permits the hunting of whitetail deer, wild turkey and ducks.

No one under 18 is allowed to carry a firearm on the land, and members of the club have agreed to a hold harmless clause. There are prohibitions on damaging roads or fences. The lessees cannot set, cause or allow any fire on the land. They are required to protect timber on the site.

The lessee must be insured through the Alabama Forest Owners’ Association. This requires bodily injury liability of $1 million per injured person and $5 million per occurrence as well as property damage liability of $1 million per occurrence and $5 million in the aggregate.

Another tree bid was approved for J. Hodge Tree Service in Valley, in the amount of $15,800. They will be removing a total of 28 trees scattered throughout the city that are in need of removal.

The council approved a resolution to enter an agreement to purchase a new bus for Valley Senior Center. It’s a nine-passenger bus with a wheelchair lift. It costs an estimated $85,ooo with the city’s portion being $16,000. The federal government picks up the rest.

Valley Parks & Recreation Director Laurie Blount said the merry-go-round was in town. It will open to the public on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 27. Weather permitting, it will run every day until it ceases for the season at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The Sleigh the 5k race will be taking place on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 10. There will be gingerbread house making for the kids that day along with rides on a miniature train and inflatables.

Long-time merry-go-round owner Rich Tinsley passed away this year at age 86. He was quite a guy and most years come down with his work crew from High Hill, Missouri to supervise assembling the merry-go-round. He loved having it be an important part of Christmas in the Valley. Valley was one of two places he brought that ride to every year, the other being the Minnesota State Fair, where it provided rides at the Mall or America.

Mr. Tinsley loved the entertainment business and had gotten hooked on it when he sold tickets for a circus when he was nine years old.

Riley said that donations had been very good this year for the merry-go-round tradition to continue. It has taken place every year since 1956.