GETTING ROCKY: Rock Building plans changing

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Pike County Commission said that Probate Judge Wes Allen’s plan to renovate the Rock Building is incomplete.

The Pike County Commission said that Probate Judge Wes Allen’s plan to renovate the Rock Building is incomplete.

Sherry Helms says she won’t rest until the Pike County Commission takes action on the renovation of the Rock Building.

Helms, who has led a grassroots effort to renovate the county-owned building, said she was frustrated and disappointed by commissioners’ lack of response to the latest proposal for renovating the building. Helms and Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen appeared before commissioners on Monday to discuss the plan, but they met with resistance.

“I am so disappointed,” Helms said. “Through the year we’ve been working on saving the Rock Building from falling in, the county commission has given us some hope that they would for this and they would help us. And, now, I don’t feel that at all. I don’t see it.”

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The county commission set aside $50,000 in this year’s budget for the preservation of the Rock Building, but Helms said the commission’s blatant disregard for Allen’s proposal indicates members don’t care about renovating the building.

“At this point, I just feel that they don’t have a desire to save the Rock Building, but I don’t know the answer to that,” Helms said. “I suggested that they give it away to somebody who could save it.”

Allen had proposed that the commissioners take out a loan to fund renovations to the building. He offered to help repay the loan by contributing $20,000 per year from the probate office, leaving the county some $63,000 per year debt repayment.

However, commissioners said Allen’s plan was incomplete and would leave the commission with only metal beams and an unfinished building, far from the renovated structure they said residents envisioned. Commissioners also said they did not have funding to support the renovation of the Rock Building, with District 5 Commissioner Joey Jackson saying that demands for road repairs already outpace the limited funds available to the commission. Commissioner Charlie Harris suggested to Helms that the group would consider renovations if all the municipalities in the county were willing to come together and support a 1-cent sales tax to generate funding for the project.

Helms said she had hoped for more answers out of the county commission during the work session, but said the commissioners’ reasoning for not supporting the citizens’ effort had several flaws.

“One of their excuses was they don’t see any income coming in from the building once it’s repaired,” Helms said. “The commission pays rent for some of the offices they are responsible for, therefore that rent money would be saved by putting in offices in the Rock Building. There is an answer for every one of their excuses. At this point all they have one their minds are the holes in their roads, but they are responsible for more than just the holes in the road.”

On Tuesday, Helms said she was disappointed by the lack of action at Monday’s meeting and she plans to continue to press commissioners to address the issue.

“We all have our own dream for that building … My dream would be for it be what it used to be. The downstairs would be used for a multipurpose room, from science fair to a farmer’s market to the EMA classes and the upstairs would be offices,” she said

“Obviously, we have a lot more work to do,” she said. “But it’s something that needs to be done and I’m not going to be quiet until it’s done.”