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Group wants to save school

Momentum continues to build behind an effort to salvage the Old School on Main Street.

At Thursday evening’s Demopolis City Council meeting, a representative from the Two Rivers Arts Council told city council members the organization was willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the historic school now used for community events does not end up as a pile of bricks and rotted lumber.

Barry Hendrix, a member of the Arts Council’s executive committee and managing editor of The Demopolis Times, told council members that his group wants to form a board of caretakers for the Old School.

Members of the council and Mayor Austin Caldwell understand the concern about the building that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

For more than a month now, council members have talked about getting the roof repaired at the Old School. Junior Brooker, head of the street department and the person charged with seeking prices to get the roof fixed, has been out of work due to an illness.

Friday morning, two contractors were scheduled to look at the roof and determine if the leaks could be patched.

Councilman Thomas Moore urged council members to approve a motion that would allow the repair of the roof before the next council meeting.

Caldwell said he would ask contractors to make an offer on repairing the roof, and then would ask them to determine if that would solve the problem. If the cost is only temporary, council members agreed that the roof should be replaced, even if the cost is higher.

While roofing problems are the highest priority for Caldwell and the council, Hendrix said more work on the inside would be needed before the building is viable. Among a list of requests the Arts Council has is that the city repair the first floor bathrooms and continue to pay for utilities.

If the city can make those improvements, Hendrix said the Arts Council would be willing to open an office in the building, commit to sponsoring three programs a year in the theater, and co-sponsor one Canebrake production each year.

There’s also discussion that the Arts Council would like to open an historical museum inside the Old School which would house art and memorabilia from public schools in the community.

The Arts Council’s push toward renovating the Old School is just the latest attempt to make repairs to the historic structure. City Clerk Vickie Taylor has drafted a grant request to the Alabama Historical Commission that could help fund some of the repairs.

Each year, that historical commission seeks nominations for "Places in Peril," and they offer money to help save the structure.

A grant application was completed Friday by Taylor, and the sites chosen for grant money will be announced the week of May 12-18 during National Preservation Week.