TUSCUMBIA — Wiley Barnard said the Alabama Music Hall of Fame will make every effort to remain open despite Northwest-Shoals Community College’s decision to postpone a proposed purchase of the hall of fame building and surrounding property.
Northwest-Shoals President Humphrey Lee announced Wednesday the college was not renewing a lease that has allowed the embattled attraction to remain open for the past six months.
Lee said the college postponed purchasing the building that houses the hall of fame and the surrounding 40 acres of property on U.S. 72 in Tuscumbia.
“The new Alabama Community College System chancellor, Dr. Mark Heinrich, would like us to evaluate the purchase of the property before we continue further into the process,” Lee said in a prepared statement.
“After speaking with Dr. Heinrich, he and I are in agreement and want to make sure we are diligent with this decision concerning the college and community by examining every aspect of this acquisition.”
Lee said the main area of concern involves an unresolved issue with gaining a clear title to the property.
A portion of the hall of fame property was originally donated to the city of Tuscumbia, which in turn donated it to the hall of fame through an industrial development board.
“We’re disappointed it didn’t come to fruition,” said Barnard, the hall of fame’s executive director. “We certainly understand and hope we can continue to work with Northwest-Shoals and Dr. Lee in some capacity.”
Barnard said the hall of fame could remain open on an “as needed” basis to accommodate school and tour groups.
“We will make every attempt to keep it open,” Barnard said.
He could not answer how the museum would remain open without the $5,000 monthly lease the college has paid during the past six months. The college also was paying the hall of fame’s utility bill, which is about $3,000 a month.
“It will be addressed,” Barnard said. “We will be making an announcement soon about our position and what we’re going to be doing. We’ve got plans, and they just have to be put in place.”
Barnard said he expects to make an announcement concerning the hall of fame’s future after Thanksgiving.
Barnard said the hall of fame is free to sell its property to the college.
“As a matter of fact, the attorney general has given us an opinion that we are free and clear to sell,” Barnard said. “There are no land issues as far as I’m concerned.”
There are no recent opinion dealing with the sale of the hall of fame property on the attorney general’s website, but there was a 2005 opinion concerning the transfer of assets, including the exhibits in the hall of fame, to the Department of Post Secondary Education or one of its member institutions
The opinion stated the board could transfer its assets if it determines the transfer would further the purpose for which the hall of fame was formed, which is to honor the achievements of individuals who made lasting contributions to music in Alabama.
The opinion also stated that any agreement should include a provision requiring the assets to be returned to the board if they are no longer being used for the purpose of honoring Alabama’s music achievers.
The deal between the hall of fame and Northwest-Shoals did not include the exhibits inside the hall of fame, only the building and property.
Lee did not close the door on the purchase of the hall of fame property, but said it needs to be examined further. He said if the title issues are resolved, the offer to purchase the building and property for $1.1 million is still open. The money would be paid in three annual increments, $400,000 the first year, $400,000 the second year and $300,000 the final year.
The idea is the hall of fame could use those funds to “reinvent” itself and increase attendance.
Hall of Fame board Chairman Rodney Hall said he is disappointed the deal with Northwest-Shoals has stalled. Like Barnard, he said there were no issues with the title to the property.
Hall said the board is working on an agreement that would help keep the hall of fame open for a period of time, but declined to provide details.
“There is somebody who has come to the table who will get us through the next several months,” Hall said. “In the meantime, we’re going to do what we can to keep the doors open. We will do nothing that will hurt the city of Tuscumbia and Colbert County. Anything we do will be beneficial to them.”
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.