Last week, Paul Kell — along with five others from the Chandler Mountain Community — visited the St. Clair County Commission’s regular work session with a simple mission.
“We’re here with our hat in our hand wondering if y’all can help us,” Kell said.
The community recently accepted two grants totaling $8,000 from State Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, to help restore the community center. The grants will be used to make repairs to the community center.
Galliher met with members of the community to discuss how other community centers in the area have raised money. The center’s fundraising committee is planning some events to further fund the restoration.
Thursday, the commission suggested a few ways it might be involved as well.
“(The center is) a very important voting place,” chairman Stan Batemon said. “That’s one of those areas in the county where, how do you replace that voting place? That would be tough up there.”
The easiest fix for the County is the parking lot, which needs to be repaired prior to the upcoming elections.
“It’s supposed to be handicap-accessible all the way around,” Batemon said. “That doesn’t just mean wheelchairs – that means people who show up in walkers way out yonder that can’t trip over rocks and gullies and things to get there.”
Commissioner Jeff Brown said County Engineer Dan Dahlke can help alleviate those problems.
“If we have to we can carry the re-claimer up there and take whatever we need out, to make the drainage right, and then pave it back,” Brown said.
As far as working on the building, the Commission may be limited as to what it can do. But Batemon said the key is thinking of a way.
“We can definitely work on the portion that’s used for voting,” he said. “The porch, the steps and stabilizing the building.
“But if Rep. Galliher has come up with some money, and it’s not restricted, there may be a way for us to combine our money with his. In other words, if it’s legal for him to give state money, in some manner, we should be able to follow that same path. We may be able to say, if he comes up with a state grant, we’ll match it. And then, the money goes the same way his does.
“We’ve just got to fund a vehicle to legally get the money into a community center. We can put it in a fire department, we can put it in a voting place up to a point – we can fix it for the voting portion of it to be kept up.”
Commissioners also said they might be able to help the center with its heating and cooling problems, which are likely to become a problem during voting season as well.
“I think we’ve got some heat pumps that we might could donate,” said Batemon. “We got some window units, a lot of stuff that’s come out of the (St. Clair County Courthouse in Ashville, currently undergoing renovation).”
According to Kell and Bill Gilliland, the building’s biggest problem is with termites.
“We had a contractor look at it,” Gilliland said. “The grant we have now is not gonna go very far in repairing the damage to the building. First thing, we got to stop the termites, and that’s gonna be pretty expensive. Then repair the termite damage.”
Kell says the center currently has “about $35 in the bank,” but the Commission is willing to help.
“If you can connect it with your fire department, or your senior program, or your water board, then we can legally put money in it,” Batemon said. “Of course it needs to be legitimate, and I think it is – they’re already doing that up there, we’re just not giving it credit.”