The Calhoun County Commission is responsible for distributing the money in the county and must award the bonds before May 1 or risk losing the funding, Calhoun County Administrator Ken Joiner said.
Right now, Anniston has “the only request in the pot,” he said.
The city would use the money to create an athletic complex at McClellan’s Miller Gym.
“What we’re trying to do is eliminate some buildings that are archaic and old and bring it all together and give the community something — a swim center … and a fitness center all hooked together,” said Steven Folks, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
The current fitness center, near the baseball fields, and the Truman Gym, which houses the pool, would be torn down. Miller Gym would be expanded to house a new, larger fitness center and an Olympic-sized pool. The Lenlock Recreation Center would be given to the Anniston Museum to create and maintain a botanical garden and the staff would move to Miller Gym.
The current youth activities center at McClellan, which would no longer be needed, would then be renovated to house a senior citizen and therapeutic recreation center. The meeting house also would be renovated.
The projects would eventually pay for themselves, but more importantly would offer better-quality facilities for residents, Folks said.
City Manager Don Hoyt agreed.
“The fitness center is old and costly to operate, and the indoor swimming pool is very, very costly to operate,” Hoyt said. “So the idea is to take the old stuff out that’s costing a lot of money and put in stuff that’s much more attractive and will be utilized by people well beyond (area residents).”
The new buildings would be more energy efficient and consolidating into one location would make the facilities more functional, officials said.
The Olympic-sized pool would allow the recreation department to expand its aquatic program, which has become increasingly popular. It would also allow the city to host USA Swimming meets that the current facility is not large enough to handle.
The football field and track will be renovated as well, allowing more sporting events to be held at the complex.
“So, it becomes more than a recreation facility,” Hoyt said. “It becomes an economic development project, you see, because that’s going to draw visitors just like the 5K run.”
The work for the recreation department would cost approximately $4 million. The city is asking for the entire $6.5 million to include some infrastructure on public works projects, Mayor Gene Robinson said. It would also allow some wiggle room in the sports complex project budget since the plans haven’t been finalized, Hoyt said.
“We’re going to have the nicest aquatic center in this part of Alabama and we should be hosting several tournaments,” Robinson said. “It’s going to generate money and pay for itself.”
There are two types of bond money available to agencies and private enterprise – $9.8 million in Recovery Zone Facility bonds which can be used for private activities and $6.5 million in Economic Development bonds that municipalities and the county can use.
The stimulus package allocated funds to the state, which the state then divided up among counties based on the rise in the unemployment rate in each area since 2008.
As of Thursday morning, there were no other requests for the economic development funds.
The County Commission will meet next Thursday at 10 a.m.
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.