#039;Rock Building#039; may be renovated

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 7, 2003

A group of community leaders and interested citizens have met several times to discuss the possibility of renovating the Pike Activities Building, a.k.a. The Rock Building, for community use.

The Rock Building is owned by the Pike County Commission and members of the committee have informed the county commissioners of their desire to breathe new life into the old building.

Emergency Management Director Larry Davis said the county is in need of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a centralized location for emergency response agencies in the event of a natural disaster or some other emergency situation.

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"The Rock Building is an ideal building for such a facility and it could also be a multi-purpose building - for offices, programs, meetings - many kinds of public activities, much as it was before," Davis said. "It could house the EMA, Red Cross and E-911 offices. Maybe the county commission office could move from the basement of the courthouse. There are many possible uses for the building."

One of the big hurdles that must be jumped before the idea can become more than a dream is that of funding, Davis said.

"Because there is a lot of public sentiment toward the building and, from several generations, we feel there is a grassroots movement that would support the project," Davis said. "However, money is needed and we need to know where to look."

Several members of the group met Thursday to explore avenues through which funds might be acquired if the building becomes available for use as an EOC.

Jerry Deloney, rural development specialist with USDA Rural Development, met with the group to discuss funding that might be available through USDA Rural Development.

Deloney said funds are available for such projects that qualify under the Rural Development Community Facilities Loans and Grants.

Deloney said community facilities that are essential to the quality of life in rural communities are eligible to request funding from Rural Development's Rural Housing Service (RHS) in the form of loans and/or grants.

RHS makes and guarantees loans and grants to develop essential rural community facilities in areas of up to 20,000 population.

According to Deloney, RHS funds may be used to construct, enlarge or improve community facilities for health care, public safety and public service.

The Rock Building project would have dual purpose as a public safety and public service facility.

Deloney said the plans the interest group has for the Rock Building are seemingly within the guidelines for funding through the RHS.

"The building is structurally in good shape," he said. "And, the renovations that have been suggested would make it a valuable community facility."

County Administrator Harry Sanders said planning for the facility is on going process and funding is at the top of the list.

"We must have a way to fund the project," he said. "We are looking at several possibilities with the belief that the funds will be available if the project gets the go-ahead. The door is open and we are ready to move through. This is a great opportunity for the citizens of Pike County to have an activities center and to restore to use a building that has historical significance and memories for many."

Davis said the people of Pike County should not forget the hard work and dedication that went into the construction of the Rock Building.

"This is a building that was built by the people and for the people," he said. "We should honor that by putting it back to good use."