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Letter to the Editor for Wed., March 18, 2020

Dear Editor:

The first day I became a City Council Member I promised to be transparent to the people who elected me, as well as those I represent in the City of Atmore. This is the sole purpose of this letter.

Yesterday, March 9, 2020, a motion was brought forth by the mayor to swap approximately 10 acres of land behind the hospital for 10 acres of land at the Rivercane property for the purpose of building a hospital. I was the lone council member to vote no on this property, and I would like to take this time to explain why. Three reasons led my no vote.

  1. Many of the citizens (our voters and the ones I represent) who use our Atmore Community Hospital are elderly, lack sufficient insurance, and struggle with transportation. With this in mind, I voted no because I believe the hospital should be close to the majority of the population and not in the high traffic of Rivercane and Windcreek. Imagine an elderly person trying to drive to the hospital on a Friday or Saturday night and having to endure the horrific traffic in the darkness and during downpours of rain.
  2. The value of the 10 acres of land behind the Atmore Community Hospital is approximately $105,000. There was no appraisal for the 10 acres of land at Rivercane. How could we vote on this motion when we are not sure if we are comparing “apples” to “apples” in a swap? I owe it to the Citizens of Atmore to be a good steward of your taxpayers’ dollars.
  3. Recently a feasibility study was conducted by Smart Growth, Inc. The study found that we have two “hot” spots located in Atmore. One being Rivercane and the other the City of Atmore itself.  Because of the distance between the two, a bridge (another business, development, etc.) was needed to connect the two because on its own, neither the City of Atmore nor Rivercane could draw from or benefit the other. This makes sense, right? With this in mind, I felt a perfect “Bridge” (connector between the City of Atmore and Rivercane) could be the hospital.  I suggested we have the hospital built somewhere closer to the majority of the residents, but I was immediately told that the location I suggested was not where ECHA wanted it, nor could they purchase the land, even though it qualified for the Tax Credit Loan.

Some have felt that my vote was against our great neighbors, Poarch Creek Indians and the hospital itself. I want to say that my vote was absolutely not against our great friends and neighbors nor the hospital. Yes, we absolutely need a new hospital and I want us to have one. My vote has and always will be about the citizens of Atmore who elected me to represent them and their interests. I’ve had numerous conversations with our great neighbors and friends (Poarch Creek Indians) regarding this topic. We respect the differences in opinions that we have but remain committed to the best interests of the people we represent.

As we move forward with the land swap, I respect the votes of the other council members and will vow to work together to do what is best for the Citizens of Atmore.

Sincerely,

Susan Smith