Q&A with Farrell Bass
City of Residence: Byron
Occupation: Civil servant
QUESTION: You own a good bit of Byrons historic Jailhouse Alley.
ANSWER: I never thought of it like that, but I guess I do. Ive got about two acres downtown between Jailhouse Alley and Church Street. It runs up to the old jailhouse on the east and across on the north is Jailhouse Park.
QUESTION: Whats on the property?
ANSWER: A warehouse on about half and the rest is field.
QUESTION: When did you buy it? And why?
ANSWER: About 20 years ago. Im 57 now so I was about 37 when I heard it was up for auction. I decided to try to buy it. The bank pre-approved financing up to $60,000. Two others bid against me but no one knew $60,000 was as high as I could go. Bids went up by $1,000s then $500s and finally to $59,500. I bid $60,000 and figured I was out, but then all went quiet. Ive been paying a bit each month all these years. Its almost paid off and when it is Ive got serious plans to remodel it over time so it wont look as bad.
QUESTION: And why?
ANSWER: Its part of our history. I thought we should hang on to it. The warehouse was built in 1905 for sweet potatoes. A fellow in his 90s came by one day and told me hed seen the whole thing stacked to the ceiling with sweet potatoes. In the summer heat, it would take 90 days here to convert the starches to sugar to make the potatoes sweet enough to sell.
QUESTION: What do you do with it?
ANSWER: I spend a lot of time here just repairing and keeping it up a little. Its also become my shop. Like most Americans, our two-car garage got so packed we couldnt get our cars in. My wife told me to get all that stuff out and bring it here.
QUESTION: But are there other uses?
ANSWER: The west end is rented as Byrons drop-off for the Peach County Recycling Center. At first they moved their cardboard bailer here but then it evolved into a center for all sorts of recyclables. The bailers gone, but people bring recyclables here from Crawford County, Houston and Bibb. Its good for Byron and Peach to show were serious about recycling and keeping what we can out of the landfill. Glassworks of Byron rents some space, too.
QUESTION: The lot itself gets used a lot by the community.
ANSWER: I like seeing it being part of the community now and want it to in the future. My goal never was to re-sell and make a lot of money. I was a volunteer firefighter and an EMT and paramedic here for 24 years, so Ive got a great regard for them. Our volunteer firefighters had a Boston butt fundraiser and there was a question about cooking on city property. I said cook over here, just make yourselves at home, and sell them at the station. A few years the Battle of Byron played mud volleyball here, the police have done haunted warehouses here -- things like that.
QUESTION: You provide a lot of free parking.
ANSWER: Well, its just a good spot anytime somethings going on downtown. There are even weddings at Jailhouse Park and this place gets covered in cars. They dont think about who owns it, but Im just glad they have a good time. Were a small town and people are respectful. They clean up and dont usually leave trash all over.
QUESTION: Isnt there one other way you preserve Byron history?
ANSWER: I paint. Im doing a painting of Byron United Methodist and the big oak tree out front that died. I did paintings of the old barber shop, old police station -- a lot things that have gone by the wayside.
QUESTION: Youre a six-term city councilman, too. Do you figure youll retire here?
ANSWER: Oh yeah, I will.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.