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Grant is pulled for Ratliff Center

DEMOPOLIS – State funding for the Theo Ratliff Activities Center has been stripped due to a technicality, but local officials are hopeful the issues can be worked out and funds restored.

“The grant writer had not performed certain notices within the prescribed times,” said Mayor Austin Caldwell, who had been in contact with John Harrison, director of the Alabama Department Economic and Community Affairs.

ADECA had committed $250,000 in grants in the $650,000 project, which would build a 9,000 square-foot activities center near U.S. Jones. ADECA pulled its commitment after a legal notice concerning an environmental study failed to run correctly. The notice was republished by grant writer Lenwood Herrin, but failed to meet the deadline required under the terms of the grant.

“We had some discussions with John Harrison and he indicated he would try to help work through the issue,” Caldwell said.

The project falls under Mark Pettus’ domain in the city’s parks and recreation department.

“It was an administrative error on the part of the grant writer and was something we were didn’t know was a problem. ADECA has said that the city had done what it was supposed to do for the grant,” he said.

If ADECA is unable to restore the grant, both Pettus and Caldwell said the project would go on hold.

“The whole program breaks up and it dominoes,” Pettus said.

Pettus said the project to build the activities center was “a good partnership.”

The city schools donated two lots it owned to project, and the city would provide in-kind services on lot preparation and electrical work. Pettus said aside from that donations from several individuals and Alabama Power had been received, in addition to Theo Ratliff’s pledge of $215,000.

“We have about $475,000 raised for the project,” Pettus said. That doesn’t include the city’s commitment to provide maintenance, estimated to run about $60,000 annually.

“It takes the wind out of you to hear a technicality could kill it,” he said.

Pettus said he had hoped for a bid opening for the project within the next two weeks, and a legal advertisement appeared in The Times’ Saturday edition requesting bid proposals for the project.

Caldwell said Herrin was to provide a letter to ADECA requesting an extension that would cover the publication, and Pettus said that the grant writer faxed that letter to the agency about 4 p.m. Monday.

“We have not heard but I anticipate I will hear something one way or another soon,” Caldwell said.

If ADECA is unable to restore the grant funds, Caldwell said the project would go on hold until the city reapplied in the next fiscal year – about six months from now.

The city could choose to continue the project without grant funds, and Caldwell said that decision would be left to the council.

“We’re basically on hold right now,” he said.

Theo Ratliff was in travel status to Oregon and could not be reached for comment, said his mother mother Camilla Ratliff, who has been involved in the project’s development.