Northport Council member claims residents are bullying him over park plans

By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Chaney Scott

Earlier this month, the Northport City Council approved exploring options for selling the property on which the Northport Community Center sits so it can become a retail space.

The property is prime real estate, located by the intersection of Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard and 12th Street just past the bridge from Tuscaloosa to Northport.

Many residents aren’t happy about this move and are making their opinions well-known. The controversy got worse this week as District 2 City Council Member Woodrow Washington claimed at Monday’s council meeting that he’s been bullied by residents against the sale.

Washington said he’s been fending off personal attacks over the community center issue, and that he’s heard of residents calling for a boycott of Washington’s business, Archibald and Woodrow’s BBQ.

“How do you call out the oldest Black business in the city of Northport about boycotting? Calling on thousands of folks not to go to my business? That bothers the world out of me,” Washington said.

Washington said he believes the residents expressing their disdain are a vocal minority over a silent majority who are A-OK with the potential sale.

“I’m just being honest as ever, the plan that you guys tried is attacking us and it’s not right,” Washington said. “I was attacked personally, to intimidate me and coerce me, it’s not right. You only have to break one person on this council or the mayor.”

Also Monday, Washington called for repealing Resolution 93-029, a law requiring that the Northport City Council needs unanimous approval to sell any city-owned property used for recreation. If the 1993 resolution winds up repealed, the city council will need a simple majority vote to approve the sale.

Bellwood resident Judy Holland said that measure was put in place to protect the very community center the council is looking to sell after it was donated to the city in the 1940s by a family who designated the site for community use.

Washington said if the land is sold, that money could go toward revitalizing the Robert Hasson Community Center and Heritage Park across Lurleen Wallace.

Holland said selling one community center to fix up another nearby isn’t right, either.

“I do not understand why two communities are being pitted against one another,” Holland said. “(Northport leaders) say the money coming out of the sale is going to the Hassan Center, but both community centers deserve to be funded.”

She started a Save the Community Center petition that has nearly 1,000 online and hundreds of paper signatures. Holland said she’s personally verified the zip codes of people signing the petition and is confirming these are Northport residents.

The community center and its surrounding land includes a playground and several historic buildings. The center itself is used by the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority for children’s summer camps and other community events.

The building also serves as a polling place, a church services location and a rentable space for community and family events.

Two mothers spoke before the council Monday, urging council members to vote against the property’s sale once the six-month due diligence period is over.

The motion to repeal Resolution 93-029 will have a second reading be voted on at the next Northport City Council meeting, scheduled for July 10.

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