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City given money for renovation

At a time when municipal governments across Alabama have sorted through financial struggles, city administrators have learned that every single dollar matters.

That’s part of the reason Demopolis officials were so elated when the Alabama Department of Transportation announced earlier this week that the city will receive a $256,000 grant. The money will be used to renovate the current downtown fire station, which also houses the public safety department and the city’s horticulturist.

Demopolis City Clerk Vickie Taylor attended a government conference last summer and ALDOT put on a program describing federal grants municipalities can receive.

Taylor, inspired by the presentation, came back to Demopolis and began researching ways this city could receive part of the pie.

Taylor knew the city needed to do something about the rotting structure that houses the fire department, and she figured out a way to make that tie into transportation.

Assisted by Kirk Brooker of the Marengo County Historical Society, Taylor and Brooker discovered that the building – originally built as a Presbyterian Church – also played a partial role in the Rooster Auction in 1919.

In the grant application process to ALDOT, Taylor and Brooker wrote that a monument dedicated to the Roster Bridge Auction would sit in the courtyard of the building.

Mayor Austin Caldwell, who notified city council members of the grant during Thursday’s meeting, said the building was in danger of becoming useless.

The mayor praised both Taylor and the historical society for their work in securing the grant, and plans for renovating the building are under way.

Once the architectural work is completed by Brian Brooker, the city will begin construction on what will become the new city council chambers. Currently, council meets in a small room that doesn’t offer much space for citizens to attend the meetings.

Along with hosting city council meetings, the building also will be used as a welcome center for Demopolis &045;&045; another way the city was able to secure the grant. The front of the building also will serve as a pictorial museum for the Rooster Bridge Auction.

Among other things, the old church building at one time served as the command center for Union troops in the mid 1860s. It has been used as the Marengo County Courthouse and as a Demopolis Opera House at one point.