Eldridge marks Cawaco grant for community center

By ED HOWELL
Posted 8/2/18

ELDRIDGE - Cawaco Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) officials met with Eldridge officials and legislators on Tuesday to celebrate $5,000 given to the town's community center as the …

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Eldridge marks Cawaco grant for community center

Posted

ELDRIDGE - Cawaco Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) officials met with Eldridge officials and legislators on Tuesday to celebrate $5,000 given to the town's community center as the town continues to make improvements to the facility. 

The non-profit organization, based in Birmingham, supports educational and community development projects in Central Alabama. Cawaco serves Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, Shelby and Walker counties. It is one of nine RC&D councils across Alabama. 

Mayor Bobbie Jean Dodd said the $5,000 was used for replacing an air conditioner, repairing doors so they will lock and painting inside the center. Funds from the grant are used to reimburse costs incurred by the town, which completed the work approximately August of last year. 

State Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, noted Cawaco helps in giving competitive grants to small towns who otherwise could not get funding from other major agencies, such as the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. No match money is required. 

Drayton H. Cosby of The Cosby Company in Birmingham, who works on program development for RC&D Councils throughout the state, said Tuesday, "I think today was the last day (to apply) for the 2019 grants, but we still keep the cycle open. There may be some opportunities still. Projects may cancel or something could happen. We close (the deadline) for projects but it stays open in case a little bit of money is left over." 

Notification of the 2019 awards will likely come out around October, Cosby said. 

Dwight Hicks of Jasper, a Walker County representative for Cawaco, said the grant applications are reviewed and ranked to determine where the money goes.

"It is good we have this kind of money to service smaller entities in these counties. I know it helps out a lot," Hicks said. 

Cosby said the funds benefit non-profit entities and organizations. 

"The council really tries to focus on facilities, parks and rec, first responders, economic development, workforce development and conservation," he said, saying governments and non-profits (but not private businesses) can apply for funds. 

Eldridge has applied for another grant for the 2019 cycle for the playground in front of the community center. Dodd pointed to lumber needs on the merry-go-round and the seesaws.

"Some of our swings are missing," she said. "Then we want to probably pea gravel underneath." Officials are also looking at a sheltered picnic table area, as she noted a large number of children and families come to that playground. 

"When we came out of city council the other night, there were nine little girls playing" at that site, she said. 

Dodd noted that Eldridge Junior High School, which was built in 1953, was closed in approximately 1993. The town leased the building the following autumn. It later took over the deed of the building. 

"We spent $90,000 before we actually got the deed to the building," Dodd said. "We have enclosed the old windows, and we did the top. It was a flat top and it was leaking, so we had to put the raised top on it." 

She pointed out the canopy to the entrance, and handicapped parking was added. "We've spent over $100,000 ourselves," she said, noting former state Rep. Ken Guin got a $10,000 matching grant when he was in office to helped with the awning and the parking. About $9,000 in fundraiser monies was used, with only $1,000 in taxpayer funds used for a match.

Work was done in the gym to lower the ceiling and do other acoustic work to enable better hearing. 

Officials said Marcus O'Mary, who now lives in Jasper and helped to get the facility for the town, has talked of the need to renovate the bathrooms, which are aged and hard to get anyone to work on, Dodd said. Officials said O'Mary, the brother of Jasper Mayor David O'Mary, has also talked of painting the exterior of the building. 

Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said he had been watching the development of the community center for some time. 

"You all do great things for your community as a result of this facility," he said. "The idea that we can come alongside the hard work you are doing and that the council is doing and the fire department is doing, and to offer some grant dollars to be able to help you upgrade the facility, is the kinds of things we ought to be doing." He thanked Cosby and Cawaco for helping with the project. 

"The key to this community is that it is obvious you can see the people love their community," he said. "There is lot of effort and work that goes in long before anyone in public office goes searching for a grant. The attitude about their town and their community and their love for their community is what drives all of this. That is what we want to see throughout our whole state is that type of dedication and love for one's community, and Eldridge is a perfect example of that." 

Dodd noted the Fireman's Gala held annually the Friday night before Mother's Day, which is a major fundraiser for the Eldridge Volunteer Fire Departments. "There were over 300 people this year," she said. 

Officials also pointed out the town's museum inside the facility, which displays news articles, photos and other artifacts concerning the history of the town, which is the oldest municipality in the county. 

Wadsworth said, "That is probably the best museum in any small town, other than probably the Bankhead Home." 

Other uses for the facility include the town offices and serving as the site for Eldridge Town Council meetings, the area polling site, a rental site for reunions, wedding anniversaries, birthday parties and more.