Lake project out of money

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, September 16, 2009

State park officials said Wednesday there is “no money left” to complete the amphitheater and community center currently under construction at Florala State Park.

In September 2008, the State Parks Joint Legislative Committee approved $1 million to construct a multipurpose community room and amphitheater. The money was obtained as the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s Innovative Readiness Team (IRT) program committed an additional $1 million in labor and equipment and arrived for work in March.

Since the IRT’s departure in July, the project site has been idle. The outer faade of the building and the outdoor amphitheater steps are complete. Inside, there are bare sheetrock walls and concrete sub-flooring, no ceiling tiles and more.

Tim Whishum, operations and maintenance supervisor for the Alabama State Park System, said the $1 million allocated for the project has been spent and it is unknown how the estimated $100,000 to $200,000 needed to complete the project will be acquired.

“As you know this was a joint project with the city of Florala,” Whishum said. “The $1 million for the project was a portion of a $100 million bond issue. The legislative oversight committee approved where the money goes and where it was spent.

“That $1 million is all it had to commit to the Florala project,” he said. “And here we are at the end of the fiscal year. That was all the money to be had.”

Whishum said the $1 million covered the architectural plans, engineering costs and site preparation.

“The site prep is where a lot of the money went,” he said. “If you remember, there was quite a bit of work done to get that spot ready to build.”

Additionally, rains in March and April damaged the construction site, washing away a significant amount of dirt, causing work delays and the need for additional fill dirt and packing procedures.

“We had the plans (for the facility) done, there was engineering work and site prep,” he said. “We also purchased all the materials to complete the building. Now the work needs to be done.”

Whishum said he’s unsure as to how much of the $1 million in committed funds is left, but knows that whatever the amount, it is not enough to complete the building.

“I don’t know if there’s money left to buy tables and chairs,” he said. “Right now, we’re in the process of getting prices from contractors to see how much it will cost to complete the project. Estimated? I’d say between $100,000 and $200,000 to open the doors.”

Whishum said park officials are “looking for a source” to complete the project and have “never thought of the city for money.”

“We’re looking and I’m sure the city is looking, too,” he said. “I do know (Florala Mayor Robert Williamson) has talked with the IRT about maybe coming back. Rest assured, it will be finished. It’s just a question of when and where will we get the money from.”