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Cullman Non-Profits Awarded $100K In Marathon CCCDC Grant Session

by | Jul 25, 2017 | Business, City, City News, County, County News, Cullman, Cullman City, Good Hope, Hanceville, Politics

The Cullman County Community Development Commission (CCCDC) held their regular business meeting on Monday night at the Cullman City Hall Auditorium center.

After a few opening remarks, housekeeping duties and approval of the minutes from their last meeting, the Commissioners got down to the core mission of the CCCDC. That core mission is assessing grant application of qualifying parties whose requests fall under the following parameters for purposes of promoting:

★ Economic and Community Development
★ Education
★ Conservation
★ Fire Protection

During the meeting, the following organizations were AWARDED grants in the noted amounts:

Vinemont Volunteer Fire Department ($12,000) – Cardiac Arrest Life Saving Equipment

Fairview Volunteer Fire Department ($12,000) – Fire Fighting Skid Unit

Cullman Senior Center ($6,000) – Cherrie Haney, Director of the Cullman County Economic Development Agency, appeared before the Commission representing several County supported grant requests. The first was this grant for the Cullman Senior Center where Director Dusty Baker is seeking funds for upgrades and repairs to the facility.

Colony Senior Center ($4,000) – Colony Mayor Donnis Leath appeared on behalf of this southern Cullman County town seeking funds to make upgrades and repairs for the Center’s flooring.

Holly Pond Elementary School ($9,653.00) – Chromebooks

Vinemont Elementary School ($12,000) – Chromebooks

Cullman Area Tech Academy ($12,000) – Chromebooks

Cullman Co. 4-H Shotgun Club ($12,000) – Purchase of Two Skeet Throwers. Jay Conway spoke on behalf of local 4-H Clubs and the needs of the organizations 35-40 participants

City of Hanceville ($12,000) – Sidewalks Extensions from downtown to the Wallace State Community College campus.

Five (5) grant requests were TABLED. These requests will be considered at a future meeting of the CCCDC. They were from:

Fairview High School ($50,000) – Renovations to the running track. This request generated the only meaningful controversy of the night. See below for more information.

Cullman County Probate Office ($12,000) – Cherrie Haney lobbied strenuously for historic preservation of old property plat cover replacements. The Probate Office is looking at almost $80,000 to complete the conservation of these documents. Monies for this project are not part of the Cullman County Commission’s budget.

Cullman County Commission ($100,000) – Road paving for County Road 813. This head scratchingly large request would have exhausted most of the CCCDC’s available funds at this meeting. Thus, it was tabled for future consideration.

Life That Counts aka John Williams ($12,000) – Positive Youth Development. Commissioners were unclear as to exactly what the money purpose in the organization’s highly detailed request might be utilized to achieve. They will seek clarification before making a final decision.

Two grant requests were DENIED by the CCCDC Commissioners:

Camp Liberty ($12,000) – Acting Chairman CCCDC Joe Golden stated Camp Liberty’s grant request was too vague on specifics to be worthy of approval.

West Point Elementary School ($12,000) – Chairman Golden put the cobosh on this request by reminding Commissioners that requests for funds for playgrounds and ball fields have been historically declined due to being outside the scope of the CCCDC’s parameters.

The Crossing ($12,000) – For oral hygeine & toiletry items. New Commissioner Speakman reasonably questioned if toothpaste and toilet paper would fall under the CCCDC’s four part mission. All Commissioners concurred that these items were out of bounds for funding.

Boy Scouts – Mulberry District ($488) – Payment of a salary for a BSA Scouting University at CHS. The CCCDC does not provide funds for any organization’s salary and employee pay structure.

Cullman VFW ($12,000) – Veterans Day Celebration. The CCCDC has never received ‘close out’ paperwork from this organization from a past grant approval. Thus, no new grant money can be considered as a result. Additionally, this request was rejected due to it being made within the required 12 month waiting period from the Cullman VFW’s last funding.

Logan Preservation Foundation ($12,000) – Ballfield Fence. Requests for funds for playgrounds and ball fields have been historically declined due to being outside the scope of the CCCDC’s parameters.

Oktoberfest Committee ($12,000) – Michael Kimbrough spoke before the Commission detailing the event’s need for ever increasing support of Oktoberfest’s funding assistance. However, Joe Golden pointed out that no ‘close out’ paperwork from past funding had been received by the CCCDC making new money impossible until that procedural requirement was met.

Career Tech/FCCLA Conference ($8,000) – expenses for 10 students. This Conference has come and gone.

Your Commissioners (l-r): Jamie Speakman, Bradley Williams, Josh Speakman, Joe Golden

As you can see, it was an extremely active, long night for Commissioners. The marathon session took almost two hours to fully complete with such as a long list of grant applicants on the roster.

Commissioners also revealed the CCCDC’s current financial report early in the meeting. It showed a pre-meeting balance of $209,980.65 available. By legislative statute, $100,000 reserve funds typically must remain in the account. Thus, $109,980.25 was available to distribute to grant requests.

With simple math, you can see the above grant requests approved in this session totaled $91,653.

Finally, a few sparks flew during the evaluation of a $50,000 request from Fairview High School to make repairs to their outdoor running track. Fairview High is falling in line with a precedent set by the CCCDC months earlier where they approved hyper-large grant amounts at West Point and Hanceville High Schools for similar refurbishments to their running tracks.

Many people who follow the ongoing work of the CCCDC feel like these $50,000, legislative delegation supported grant approvals for running tracks are a). out of the scope of the Commission’s original mandate, are b). Nothing more than a feel good political boondoggle to gain the favor of a larger educational constituency, and c). Limits and extends the availability timeline of funds to non-profits in need who seek smaller amounts.

On the other side, some observers like the gesture of providing extra funding to County Schools beyond their almost $100 million per year budget for these sorts of often difficult to finance facility upgrades.

In the case of the Fairview request, the issue was not political. It concerned about financial investment.

Jamie Speakman noted that he had visited the Fairview track and he had grave concerns about water drainage in and around the facility. It is his concern that if the CCCDC awarded the funds and the track was repaired/upgraded with CCCDC funding, that work would be negated, if not destroyed in short order, by water damage.

Commissioner Bradley Williams also visited the Fairview track recently. He concurred with Speakman’s assessment and concerns on the matter.

As a result, the vote on this grant ended in a 2-to-2 stalemate.

Late in the meeting in an attempt to salvage the Fairview grant request, Cherrie Haney offered to call Fairview Principal Chris Gambill on the telephone and have him discuss the situation and his plans for remediation of the drainage situation with the Commissioners.

Commissioner Williams bristled at such a process stating:

“I don’t see the Principal here tonight. Everybody else is here tonight. He is asking for $50,000, so we need to hear from him directly, preferably in person. I want to make sure this is going to get done RIGHT before we vote to approve funds.”

And so, the request from Fairview was tabled until a future meeting.

Alabama House District 11 Representative Randall Shedd (R) of Fairview was on hand in support of the grant to his hometown high school. The Commissioners also have a letter from all members of the local legislative delegation endorsing the disbursement of funds to Fairview High School for this running track upgrade.

In other CCCDC business, long time member of the Government Affairs Committee of the Cullman area Chamber of Commerce – Jamie Speakman – was introduced as a new Commissioner to the CCCDC. Speakman is replacing the vacated seat of well respected former acting CCCDC Chairman Bill Strandlund. He recently stepped down from this organization to pursue other interests.

All Commissioners agreed that Strandlund had done great work for the CCCDC over the years and that his presence and expertise will be very much missed.

Commissioner Joe Golden has taken over the role of Acting Chairman of the CCCDC with Strandlund’s departure.

What Is Cullman County Community Development Commission (CCCDC)?

The CCCDC is perhaps Cullman County’s best kept public secret.

The Cullman County Community Development Commission (CCCDC) has awarded qualifying cities, towns and organizations throughout Cullman County almost $4 million from its inception through June 30, 2017.

The CCCDC awards grants to various 501(c)3 entities and qualifying public facilities throughout Cullman County.

The CCCDC grant funds come from 50% of all Alabama State beer tax revenue received by Cullman County AND money generated from 3% of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in-lieu-of-tax payments. Those funds are held in an account maintained and separate from the General Funds account of the Cullman County Commission.

You can learn more here.

Next meeting: August 28th, 6 pm, Cullman City Hall

Cullman County Community Development Commission

images by Cullman Today

Cullman Non-Profits Awarded $100+K In Marathon CCCDC Grant Session

Timothy Collins

Originally from Asheville, NC, Timothy brings an insightful holistic perspective as well as a mountain man tenacity to his various roles at Cullman Today. You can reach him at cullmantoday@gmail.com and/or (256) 615-8260.

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