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County further discusses new senior center facility
Rockford Senior Center now near completion
By Christa Jennings
During a break at the special called County Commission meeting, individuals take the opportunity to conduct a walkthrough of the new Rockford Senior Center. Photo submitted
The interior of the nearly completed Rockford Senior Center reflects how much the building has been renovated during the project, making a nice and updated center for the town’s senior citizens. Photo submitted
During a special called meeting held last Tuesday morning, the County Commission met with representatives of the Town of Rockford and others to further discuss the new Rockford Senior Center.
Among those present for the discussion were project engineer Ed Morris; contractor Ryan McGraw; a representative with Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, or ADECA, sent on behalf of Latisha Royal; and Scott Williams with Walker, Williams, Johnson Inc.
Others present for the meeting were Rockford Mayor Scott White and wife, Mary; Town Clerk Jennifer Tindall; former Town Clerk Kris Rambo; Rockford Town Council members Shirley Ogle and Robert Smith; town attorney Derrick Blythe; Sheriff Michael Howell; EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson; and Revenue Commissioner Debra Lamberth.
Mayor White provided the commission with copies of the blueprint and project plans for review and stood ready to answer questions from the commission.
Commissioner Ronnie Joiner said his concern was with the handrails, which were “totally messed up,” adding that he didn’t bring it up before because it was at the end of the project before he saw it.
He also mentioned the roof being changed, which he said he did not see until it was already done. He added that was why he brought it up when he did.
Commissioner Randall Dunham asked why the roof was changed, and White reviewed the history and information regarding the project and how it got to where it is now. Ultimately, he said the changes to the project were made because there was not enough money in the grant to cover the original plans.
“This grant was for the school, to rehab the school,” White explained. “It included a senior center, but it never had to be put there, but we know that the seniors needed a senior center, so we adjusted things to be able to provide them a senior center. The roof had to be cut. Other things had to be cut to make the money right to get this job done.”
White added that the handrails had not yet been viewed the day Joiner initially called him because the project was not completed. He said the handrails are being fixed, and regarding the roof, he said it “looks fine” and has a warranty on it.
Dunham asked how much the grant was for, and White explained it was a $349,000 grant, with no matching funds required for the grant.
Former Town Clerk Kris Rambo spoke up as someone who was involved with the project since near the beginning, saying that $349,000 seems like a good deal of money and that you should be able to get “a lot done” with it.
“One of the main things I learned during the project was, it’s not,” Rambo said. “Going through two bid cycles where the bids were just outrageous. So I can understand where you may have had to cut from a certain part of the project funds to get a roof on the building. It had to have a roof. A metal roof would have been nice, but if the money’s not there to provide that we have to go with something else so that our seniors have a roof on their building. And I’m here today to say, what’s going on? This is a blessing. …This is a positive thing. Our seniors have been so patient. Let’s not delay it any longer. Let’s move forward, and let’s all enjoy it. Our seniors deserve it.”
In further discussion, White explained that engineer Morris had already completed the final inspection as of last week’s meeting. He said there were a few things, including the handrails, that would have to be addressed before the project is completed.
Morris said there were a few cosmetic things inside the building that they had to do, including touching up some paint, putting covers on some electrical outlets, replacing a sink, and fixing the handrails. He said those were the only things preventing the project from being closed out.
Morris added that individuals would be coming that Thursday to look into correcting the handrails.
Dunham and Joiner questioned the county’s access to the building and when the county would receive a key to the senior center. Morris said he would be conducting the final inspection and that the commission should receive a key within a couple of weeks.
Joiner also asked about two wooden posts in the middle of the walkway, with him saying it originally had metal posts.
Morris said the general consensus as that “you put it back as it was,” and he asked the contractor to put metal posts back as that is what they were originally. He added that it would not be a problem to switch the wooden posts to metal ones.
During further discussion, White said he was tired of the senior center being held up. Rambo said she could attest to there being numerous delays and roadblocks with the project.
“Let’s move forward,” Rambo said. “Let’s stop this. This has been going on for four-plus years. My point is, enough with the arguing. Enough with the negativity. If something needs to be fixed, if the funds are there let’s fix it. We have a population of seniors in this county that need and deserve a center. And I’m sorry, but I’m a little ill at the moment because I worked so hard on this project. I’ve seen the frustration of our seniors, and it’s wrong. We have some seniors who are no longer with us that we have lost in the last four years. This four-year project should have been maybe at tops, I would say, maybe a two-year project, but again it has been held up. …Let’s work together. Let’s stop being so negative – the county versus the town, the town versus the county – when we have good people out there waiting to walk through their senior center.”
In additional discussion, Morris said the handrails being redone would be covered as part of the construction cost with no change in price and no cost to the town or county.
Commissioner Dunham said they appreciate everything the town has done for the senior center.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’ll get these few things corrected and get a key like we asked for here at the office, and I’m good with everything myself,” Dunham added. “Let’s go.”
In follow-up discussion with White, as of Wednesday he said the building is now finished other than waiting on the adjustments to the handrails. He said that would happen Thursday, or yesterday.
He added that he hopes to be able to release the key to the commission next week, once the project has been completed and closed.
In other business, the commission heard an update from Najsha Corbett, regional planner with East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, regarding a grant for which the county had applied.
The $200,000 grant, as previously reported, was to be divided up among the county’s five districts and that any entities or projects using the grant funds had to be COVID-19 related.
Corbett further explained during last week’s meeting that it is a COVID-19 grant so they have to be able to tie the projects back to COVID-19.
She explained that the county was approved for the grant, but that some of the funds requested would need to be reallocated as soon as possible. Specifically, districts one and four needed to reallocate funds to eligible projects because the originally submitted request to use them for data archiving for the probate office was not deemed eligible.
Corbett said they would need to make their decisions and submit the proposed reallocations by July 6 in order for the projects to be approved and move forward.
Corbett and the commission discussed possible ideas for other uses of those funds during the meeting. Following discussion, the commission unanimously approved the redistribution of the funds to other eligible projects.
With Tuesday being the deadline for the decision to be made and submitted, in follow-up conversation with County Administrator Amy Gilliland, she said that districts one and four will reallocate and use their funds for local food banks, personal protective equipment (PPE) and air purifiers for senior centers and other county facilities.
In other business during the special meeting, the commission unanimously approved a waiver letter to ADECA regarding the Westwater project and for Vice Chair Bertha K. McElrath to sign said letter.
The letter was to be submitted prior to construction starting on the project and is to help make the project eligible for ADECA funds.
Addressed to ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell, the letter reads, “The Coosa County Commission has experienced the good fortune of Westwater Resources deciding to construct operations in our Lake Martin Regional Industrial Park in Kellyton, Alabama, located in Coosa County. The company will create 100 fulltime jobs. The county held discussions with you and your staff about economic development infrastructure funds (i.e. access, drainage, roads, etc.) to assist with infrastructure needed for this project and received a soft commitment between $500,000.00 and $600,000.00.
“The company hopes to open for business in 2023, but will start construction of the facility in late 2021 in order to meet their timeline. Because of the company’s capital investment and projected job creation, the county asks for a waiver to allow site preparation and construction to begin on items that will not be funded with CDBG [Community Development Block Grant] dollars.”
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Coosa County Commission will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 13.