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Money for higher education center ‘on hold’

A discrepancy over money promised to the city of Demopolis has Mayor Austin Caldwell scratching his head and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s staff searching record books.

In October, the Delta Regional Authority announced that Demopolis had been awarded a $1.25 million grant to build a higher education center. Three months later, the city still has received no check &045; just a promise of one.

John Clyde Riggs, head of the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Authority, said his organization also has not received a promised grant from DRA.

Andrea Andrews, spokeswoman for Shelby, R-Ala., said she was unaware of any money being held up from the Delta Regional Authority.

However, Andrews could not give a definitive answer about the hold up on Tuesday. Staff members from Shelby’s office attempted to contact the federal appropriations department and were unsuccessful.

More than two years ago, a number of U.S. Senators from the South formed the Delta Regional Authority to provide federal assistance to areas in need. DRA specifically helps prepare areas to lure more industry.

When DRA was first announced, no areas of Alabama were included. Shelby, one of the leading Republican senators, held up a bill that would have passed the DRA until certain areas of Alabama &045; including Marengo County &045; were included.

While Demopolis waits for official word about the grant money and the construction of the higher education center, Riggs said this does not mean the money won’t come.

In essence, DRA has promised ADECA that the money will come, and ADECA is scheduled to promise Demopolis the same.

Mayor Caldwell is skeptical of the "memorandums" and said he’d rather wait on the cash.

At a recent Demopolis City Council meeting, PH&J Architects were awarded a contract to design the higher education center, to be located near the parks and recreation fields.

Actual architectural work will not begin, Caldwell said, until the DRA provides funding for the project.