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Construction on Ratliff center set for June

Construction on the Theo Ratliff Activity Center in Demopolis could begin as early as June, according to the man who has helped facilitate the project.

Lenwood Herron, of Wenworth Corporation, told Demopolis City Council members Thursday that Ratliff’s project to build an activity center near U.S. Jones is “moving right along.”

Herron has served as a professional consultant for the city of Demopolis and has helped push the grant process along, working with Mark Pettus and Luke Hallmark.

“There are still some things we need to finish, like environmental reviews,” Herron said. “But we’re close to looking for an architect and project manager.”

By March, Herron said, the city should be able to hire an architect, and after advertisements are run, the construction on the facility should begin in June.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Herron presented the blue prints from a similar activity center built in Athens, Ala. That center, which cost just $700,000 to build, spans more than 19,000 square feet.

“I’m not telling you what to do, but this is an amazing facility,” Herron said.

Last year, Ratliff announced a donation of $200,000 to build an activity center located on three lots next to U.S. Jones.

Along with a basketball court, the center will offer a walking track, meeting rooms and a computer lab, among other things.

After Ratliff’s announcement, the city learned that Herron and Pettus were successful in obtaining a Community Development Block Grant for $250,000.

If current plans are used, Pettus estimates the activity center to cost $600,000. With $450,000 already in-pocket, Ratliff’s mother, Camilla Ratliff, has indicated her son — a basketball star who played at Demopolis High School — is meeting with the NBA and his agent to hopefully obtain more money.

“The NBA gets involved with things like this,” Pettus said. “I know they’re working to set up a meeting to possibly get more money.”