Adkins talks demo concerns
by Jennifer Cohron
May 01, 2013 | 2833 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cordova High School, which closed in 2008, is slated for demolition. Cordova Fire and Rescue has been located in the old gym since 2011 as a result of the April 27 tornadoes. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
Cordova High School, which closed in 2008, is slated for demolition. Cordova Fire and Rescue has been located in the old gym since 2011 as a result of the April 27 tornadoes. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
A gentlemen’s agreement led to the city of Cordova using the old high school gym as a temporary fire station, but it must now be torn down for the good of the students in the Walker County School System, Superintendent Jason Adkins said last week.

In a written response to the Daily Mountain Eagle, Adkins explained why the gym is part of the demolition approved by the Board of Education on April 18 as well as the time constraints involved in the project.

Adkins also elaborated on his conversations with city officials regarding the fire department’s use of the facility and its impending demolition.

“I made an agreement with a friend to help him and his very vital organization out in a time of need. From the beginning, it was understood that the agreement was a temporary solution,” Adkins said. “I have honored that agreement. It is my desire that the agreement, such as it was, be honored by the other party as well. This issue should be put to rest before inaccurate information breeds controversy and sends emotion spiraling down a route undeserving of the agreement’s true origin and intention.”

Adkins said Fire Chief Dean Harbison contacted him two years ago after the Cordova Fire Department was destroyed in the April 27 tornadoes.

Adkins said Harbison indicated that he would need approximately a year to obtain a permanent location for the fire department.

“This was where the situation stood for two years until recent events placed the school demolition back on the agenda,” Adkins said.

Adkins requested the board’s permission to move forward with studying the demolition of the old school, which has been closed since 2008, several months ago.

Structural engineers were also called in to determine the feasibility of saving the gym for school use.

In the board’s meeting two weeks ago, Adkins announced the cost of keeping the gym to be between $150,000 and $200,000.

Adkins stated in the letter to the Daily Mountain Eagle that the project would entail not only bracing the gym but also addressing the 15 foot rise from the school’s lobby to the gym entrance and bricking a 100-foot long by 50-foot high wall that would be left exposed.

“The school must come down. It is a tremendous eye-sore and liability. However, there are many needs in many schools in various communities and it would not be in the best interest of meeting all of them if I were to authorize such expenditure as saving the old gym would require,” Adkins said.

The funding for demolition is expected to come from the Alabama Public School and College Authority. Adkins said the board recently received information from the Alabama State Building Commission that the funds would be lost if not spent soon.

In the letter, Adkins also praised the job that Cordova’s volunteer firefighters do to protect the community and called many of the fire department’s members “personal friends.”

“I want my friends to remain my friends,” Adkins said.

Cordova Mayor Drew Gilbert said Tuesday that the city considered the use of the gym for the fire department “a great privilege in our time of need.”

“We understood from the onset that this was a temporary fix to a much more permanent problem and that the use of this facility would come to an end,” Gilbert said, adding the city “fully supports the Board of Education and the moves that they consider necessary for their operation.”

Gilbert also confirmed that he met with Adkins in March and learned that the demolition project would soon be bid out.

Gilbert was notified that a bid had been awarded by a citizen who attended the board’s meeting on April 18.

He said a plan for a replacement temporary facility has already been put into action while the city pursues funds for a permanent fire station.

“We have grown to understand that this is the life of a small city recovering from such a loss, and we have become quite talented at shifting our facilities around to serve our public until permanent structures can once again arise,” Gilbert said.