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Florala lake project gets $200K

Speaker of the House Seth Hammett and Sen. Jimmy Holley announced funding totaling an estimated $250K for two Covington County projects Tuesday.

Nearly 41 years to the day its namesake died in Vietnam, Speaker of the House Seth Hammett announced Tuesday work on the Rodney J. Evans Conference Center would continue until completed.

Hammett, who was joined by Sen. Jimmy Holley, state parks assistant commissioner Hobbie Sealy and Florala Mayor Robert Williamson, called Tuesday a “red letter day” for Florala and vowed he “would see the building finished before leaving office.”

“That gives them until November when I leave the legislature,” Hammett said jokingly. “Or January when I end my term as speaker.

“Here in Florala, we can promote natural resources and tourism and at the same time, promote the local economy,” he said. “This building can do that.”

The project was the brainchild of former Florala utilities board chairman William H. “Billy” McDaniel. It was made possible in 2008 through a joint partnership between the state parks system, which committed $1 million for materials, and the city, which secured $1 million in labor from the U.S. Air Force IRT Team.

Work was halted in July 2009 when funding was depleted, and for nearly a year, the construction site of the new amphitheater and community center named in honor of Florala native and Medal of Honor recipient Rodney J. Evans had been still.

That was not the case Tuesday as construction workers paused long enough to hear the day’s announcement before beginning their work again.

Sealy, who spoke on behalf of Commissioner Barnett Lawley, said his department has committed $200,000-plus to seeing the project finished.

“We’re going to be here until it’s finished,” Sealy said.

Sen. Holley described the project as a “journey.”

“I remember when this journey started several years ago,” Holley said. “I think when you start on such a journey, it’s not so much important how you start and stop, it’s how you come to the conclusion. Looking around, I can tell what’s going to happen to this project.’

Holley said he hopes to one day see a play telling of Florala’s history performed on the property’s yet-to-be constructed stage.

“This is a great addition to Florala,” he said. “It’s going to be a grand place.”

Depending on weather conditions, construction on the project should take eight to 10 weeks.