County to sell Rock building

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, January 26, 2016

County commissioners voted Monday to sell the controversial and historic Rock Building.

“We don’t have a stream of revenue to pay for restoring it,” said District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Barron, who made the motion to offer the building for sale through sealed bids. “If we did, I’d be all for it.”

Barron said the commission recently conducted a certified appraisal, which valued the building in its current condition at $115,000.

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“I’ve talked to some people who are interested in bidding on it,” said Barron, adding, “it’s not that I’m against the Rock Building, but I want to see it restored and we don’t have the revenue to do that.”

The Pike Activities Building, known locally as the Rock Building, was built by a WPA project that started in 1937. Construction used rocks collected from individuals and fields throughout Pike County. The building was dedicated on July 12, 1939, to the farm families of the county and was the hub of county activities before it was heavily damaged by an arsonist’s fire more than 20 years ago.

About two years ago, Sherry Helms and her husband, David, spearheaded a grassroots campaign to restore the building. Helms, who operates several businesses around the downtown building, and volunteers raised awareness of the need about $18,000 in donation, which has since been turned over to the commission. In recent months, Helms has approached commissioners about the lack of progress on restoration, asking them to either begin restoration or return the donated fund.

Commissioners have said repair and restoration costs for the building would be hundreds of thousands of dollars, money the commission doesn’t have available. And without a dedicated source of revenue for the project, Barron said the best course for the county is to pursue the sale of the building to private individuals who might be willing to invest in the restoration and development.

District 2 Commissioner Robin Sullivan is one of two to vote against the sale. “I want to see it stay in the county’s hands, in hopes that in a couple of years we might have some funding available for restoring it,” he said.

Homer Wright, District 1, also voted against the sale.

“I have too many people asking me about preserving that building,” he said. “I’m proud that we got the appraisal, but I want to see where that would take us … I have been for restoring the Rock Building since Day 1.”

Allen Jones, board attorney, said the commission can offer the building for sale via sealed bid and retain the right to reject any or all bids, which is what the commission voted to do. Details and a timeline for the bid were not offered.

In other business on Monday, the commission:

• Held a public meeting to wrap up the 2012 Community Development Block Grant that included resurfacing a section of County Road 2203; resurfacing County Road 6606; and paving the north end of County Road 7703.

• Held a public hearing to discuss the upcoming CDBG grant request and review proposed roads.

• Heard updates from Jeanna Barnes, EMA director, on the pending FEMA meeting. Federal officials will meet with representatives of county and municipal governments in Pike and Barbour counties at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Pike County Commission meeting room.

The purpose is to outline the process local officials will following is seeking FEMA approval and aid in the wake of the December 2015 flooding events.

• Heard an update from County Engineer Russell Olvier on last week’s Drive Alabama road tour and efforts to repair county roads damaged by the weather event. “Sonny Brassfield, director of the Alabama County Commission Association, said Thursday the Pike County Road Tour was the best one yet,” Jackson told Russell. “He said it was a textbook example.”