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Ratliff Center ready for second phase

DEMOPOLIS &045; The Theo Ratliff Activity Center is nearing the groundbreaking of a $450,000 dollar expansion which will fulfill the original plans for the facility.

The total cost will include approximately $400,000 for bricks and mortar and $50,000 for interior needs. The 3500-square-foot construction project will include three multi-purpose rooms on the north end of the structure and a classroom, a computer lab and an office on the south end. The plans also call for a storage room and another restroom.

According to Pettus, the success of the facility’s first phase provided a strong argument for securing the funding to push forward with the second segment of construction.

Those success numbers for the center, which opened in September of 2005, include the 70,000 visitors the center welcomed in 2007.

Ed Ward, director of the center, was also pleased with the response to the facility.

The forthcoming construction project will continue to enhance the original concept for the center by adding more facilities to provide educational opportunities and programs.

The center has been able to capitalize on that goal, but has had to go outside of its own walls in order to do so.

The numbers serve as a strong indicator Ratliff’s vision was not lost on the community and provided grounds for completing the project. Armed with the data to prove the need to push forward with the expansion, facility officials were able to secure the funds necessary to begin work on the project.

The largest percentage of funding comes from a Community Development Block Grant provided by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The Demopolis Parks and Recreation Department originally applied for the $250,000 dollar maximum for the center expansion, an amount that was eventually granted.

The parks and recreation department was then able to cash in on the $100,000 pledge it had received from the City of Demopolis that had promised to post the funds if the grant were secured. The final $100,000 for the expansion was posted by Ratliff.

While the start date for the project has yet to be determined, Pettus anticipates the groundbreaking will occur in late spring.