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City gets another building

The Demopolis Beautification Department will have a new headquarters soon thanks to a gift from Robertson Banking Company. It was announced at Thursday’s meeting of the Demopolis City Council that the former location of Gary Malone Auto repair.

The structure was built in 1949 as a car dealership. The paint will be scraped away from the glass block section of the building. "It is recognized as a historic building," said city horticulturist Amanda Smith. It was built in an "international style."

Part of the property donated also contains the parking lot for the Demopolis Public Library and a small lot in the back of the movie theatre.

The department will be able to keep its three trucks, two water trailers, flat bed trailer and Toro Dingo tiller in the garage portion of the building.

The Beautification Department includes Smith, two full-time employees and two inmates from the area prison cattle ranch. She has approval to hire another full-time employee. That will wait until spring, she said.

The department received $160,000 in the city budget for fiscal year 2004. "The city is definitely committed to this department," Smith said. "They’ve really done a lot to help support me. (The new) building is another way of saying this is a permanent department."

The main amount of work for the department is concentrated downtown, but they will soon begin a tree planting project on Highway 80 that will require a lot of watering. "We will have a lot of work on 80," she said.

Other future projects included replacing the street signs along Highway 80. "Something that looks nicer than just the standard green with white letters," Smith said. "Something that is consistent through Highway 80."

Smith also plans to landscape the U.S. Jones Recreation Center, and she hopes to eventually landscape the water tower on Highway 80, the State Trooper station and the U.S. Post office downtown.

There are also plans for new city entrance signs on Highway 43 north and south, but the project has not been fully funded yet, she said.

The fate of the old botanical gardens site will rest on an overall plan for the Webb Landing area and downtown riverfront. "We need everybody to get together with somebody that is a professional planner and come together and do a master plan," Smith said. "…You can’t just do one part and expect it to work."

Many other cities in Alabama are paying more attention to beautification, she said. "I get calls from Aliceville, Eutaw and Livingston; different cities asking for help and guidance."

In cities where there is not a professional horticulturist on staff, committed volunteers are trying to make a difference, Smith said.