Red Cross should donate building to city

Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 5/17/17

The American Red Cross is relocating in June from its current office on Viking Drive in Jasper to the former National Guard Armory in Cordova.

On the surface, that move doesn’t seem …

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Red Cross should donate building to city

Posted

The American Red Cross is relocating in June from its current office on Viking Drive in Jasper to the former National Guard Armory in Cordova.

On the surface, that move doesn’t seem controversial. The only possible problem might be that the organization is moving from a centralized location to a spot farther away for residents on the west side of the county.

But digging deeper leads to the true controversy surrounding the move — the fact that community members from across Walker County raised more than $400,000 for the purchase and renovation of the current location less than 10 years ago.

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary was alerted in early March that Red Cross officials intended to liquidate their real estate holdings in Jasper. O’Mary, a former local Red Cross board member, served as chairperson in the capital campaign to raise the funds for the building on Viking Drive.

“That is a great breach of trust in my opinion and will generate no good will from the individuals and businesses that contributed the funds for this facility to serve as a base of operations for your organization,” O’Mary wrote in a March 9 letter to the Red Cross, which he also shared with the Daily Mountain Eagle.

O’Mary went on to propose that in order to preserve a good working relationship within the community that the Red Cross surrender the title to the Viking Drive property back to the people of Jasper who fitted the bill for the building in the first place.

In the letter, O’Mary suggested the building could then continue to be used by the Red Cross without the burden of ownership.

O’Mary said he never received a response from his letter. The response from the Red Cross was loud and clear in a front page story in today’s edition of the Eagle. The Red Cross does intend to sell the facility on Viking Drive with the funds from that sale going strictly to their own coffers.

“We don’t discuss the funds. What we do is that money does go back into Red Cross so that money will still be in the area,” said Alicia Anger, a Birmingham-based ARC spokesperson when speaking to the Eagle earlier this week.

It is doubtful that those funds will not be earmarked for Walker County. Our fear is they will go straight to the Red Cross to be used for anything they deem, including administrative salaries and costs in other areas.

The DME agrees completely with the current mayor. The deed to the facility should be given back to the people of our community so it can be used in ways that enhance our area. At the very least, the Red Cross should donate a large portion of the funds obtained from selling the building to the community, possibly through the Walker Area Community Foundation.

The reputation of the Red Cross has taken a hit in Walker County in recent years due to inactivity by the group. There is no longer a local board of directors. There is no longer a full-time service center manager in the area. Former Red Cross volunteers have grown disenchanted.

The DME is concerned the move to Cordova is the continuation of service cutbacks in our area with the move being a temporary way to save face before the Red Cross leaves the area altogether, leaving Walker County to be served out of its Tuscaloosa location.

Doing the right thing with the facility on Viking Drive would have been a small way the Red Cross could have improved its relationship and reputation within our community. Unfortunately, doing the wrong thing will only drive a larger wedge between the organization and our area. Local citizens have a right to be upset regarding this situation.

- Daily Mountain Eagle