“We’re finding out that deeds in this town are off.”
And Burnside Mayor Robert Lawson isn’t sure who in the long-gone past is to blame for that, but “I’d like to dig them up.”
The tongue-in-cheek quip during Monday’s meeting of the Burnside City Council was born out of frustration given the situation the city finds itself in over plans to build a multi-use community center that would also contain offices and facilities for the Burnside Little League.
Lawson said on Monday that the city would have to dissolve its lease with Burnside Little League until an issue over the deed for the property on which the structure would be built is resolved.
The mayor said that lot was surveyed along with the property on which the city built the new performance stage at Cole Park. The surveyor informed Lawson that the lot was city property, given to Burnside by the family of Charles Cox. Lawson spoke to local property owner Ralph Jackson, who essentially told Lawson the “same story: Cox did seek to give it to the city, died two months later, and his estate went ahead and gave the property to Burnside.
At a tourism board meeting in March, however, citizen Alice Jackson “made me aware that her and (husband) J.R. bought that lot at auction, so that put a different light on it.” Lawson hadn’t previously heard that name associated with the property, he said.
The surveyor went back and checked, and “lo and behold, guess what? It happened,” said Lawson. It took a great deal of searching back through decades of city council minutes, and in 1989, Cox did give the land to the city, but several months later, the family came back and said that it was an “erroneous deed,” said Lawson. The family asked for the property to be given back and the council agreed to that; “Mr. Cox’s family was supposed to give it back to the city when they located the right deed — which never happened.”
So the Jacksons ended up buying the property, and gave it to J.R.’s father Joe, with the deed in Joe Jackson’s name, continued Lawson. Joe passed away in 2015, but his ownership is now care of Ralph Jackson, executor of Joe’s estate, said Lawson, who added that he and Burnside Little League President Danny Bray had a Zoom meeting with Ralph Jackson to ask if he’d give the property or sell it to either the city or the Little League organization; “He has not gotten back with us yet,” said Lawson. “So that’s where we’re at.”
There are four lots in that area; Summit Avenue runs up to the one, said Lawson, but it’s essentially “landlocked and surrounded by other properties,” and has never been developed.
The first step, however, was to void the lease in place with Little League since the city does not yet actually own the property. Lawson is hopeful the land can still be donated to or purchased by the city, but if not, “we’ll have to cross that bridge,” he said.
In other Burnside City Council Business:
• The city council accepted a bid of $85,400 to build a storage building — with 10 units and two bays — on the old Boy Scout house property off of Cumberland Avenue.
• The council agreed to pay back grant money and finish the sidewalk project by bidding it out themselves. With the government grant, the contractor would have to be state-certified; but when it was found that the company Burnside was going to use which had the more favorable bid was not, the council reasoned the job could be done more cost-effectively if they gave back the grant money and chose whatever contractor they wanted.
“We’re not going to do anyway driveways, just straight sidewalks,” said Lawson, who said the project would go from the Dollar General store to Oak Street.
• Lawson announced that the water line project is now finished, with a 12-year guarantee if anything cosmetic needs to be fixed or anything goes wrong. “There are a few cosmetic things,” said Lawson, “but they’re done laying pipe.”