It’s the fulfillment of a goal of Councilman Elvin Henson, who is serving his first term on the council, but it’s the result of a lot of cooperation, Henson said.
Members of city staff are building the bathrooms. The Cleburne County Commission contributed $4,000 toward the project, and Commissioner Emmett Owen sought donations of building supplies for the bathrooms.
“I was tickled to death things just fell into place,” Henson said. “It happened because everybody worked together — something they can’t do in Washington.”
The city hasn’t always had such good results with the park that’s planned for the site. The City Council had to turn down a grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to build a handicapped accessible playground on the site. The city’s portion wasn’t figured properly, and the council had to pay about $130,000 out of the city’s general fund to receive a $206,000 match.
The council members had hoped city staff working on the site would provide most of the city’s match. At the April meeting, City Council members reluctantly voted to return the grant.
But Henson is excited to see another piece of the park almost ready for use, he said.
Mayor Rudy Rooks said the bathrooms will someday serve people using a walking trail and playground on the site. The playground the city plans now will be scaled back from the original vision, and it won’t include the handicapped-accessible equipment, Rooks said.
Once finished, the park will be the fourth in Heflin, said Tammy Perry, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. The city also has a park at the Heflin Recreation Center, an archery and air-gun range and the Lake Point Disc Golf Course. The city’s plans call for the walking track to be built next at the arts center and then the playground, she said.
Perry said it’s going to be an improvement for an underused city property. The planned attractions will accommodate both the children and adults who currently use the arts center for ballet lessons, scouting and adult education classes, she added.
The building where the arts center now resides used to be the Heflin Training School, the city’s segregated school for blacks, said Henson, who attended there. The school system integrated in 1968 and the building sat empty for years. In 2007, the newly renovated building reopened as the Heflin Community Arts Center. A three-story gymnasium that was also on the property had grown too dilapidated to save, he said. When that building was torn down, he and other alumni of the school collected bricks and blocks from the building as remembrances, Henson said. He’s glad to see the school building preserved and the grounds being used again, Henson added.
Michael Bruno, who works in the city’s Street Department and is called on to do special projects such as the bathrooms, said the new bathrooms should be ready for use in a couple of weeks. He’s been working on the building for two weeks, Bruno said. Each of the two bathrooms will have one toilet and one sink, he said.
While the walking track will be built next, it’s still in the planning stages and there is no scheduled timeline for work to begin, Henson said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.