All members except for Mayor Gene Robinson were present at the 30-minute meeting, held only for the council to approve a grant application that could potentially provide up to $75,000 in funding for a future civil rights museum in Anniston.
Louise Campbell, grant writer for the city, must fill out the many pages of the federal grant application and submit it to the National Endowment for the Humanities by Wednesday for the civil rights museum project to be considered for funding.
All of the council members present today approved the application. Councilman Ben Little, who has been spearheading the museum project, called the grant application a significant step in making the museum a reality.
“I think this (the grant application and approval) is a large piece of growth for the project … west Anniston and all residents,” Little said after the meeting. “This is a very positive thing for our community.”
In 2008, Little campaigned on creating the museum, a project he said will help document local civil rights events, the broader movement and act as an introduction to the local sites important in that movement, such as the scene of the 1961 burning of a Freedom Riders’ bus.
Earlier this fall, the council appointed former Councilwoman Debra Foster to head the museum effort out of an office at the city-owned Project Pay Building on 13th Street and Moore Avenue.
In March, the council allocated the project’s first funds – $5,000 to create a video archive of recollections by people who witnessed the civil rights movement in Anniston and $40,000 to help jumpstart museum organization.
Little has estimated the total project will cost somewhere between $6 million and $7 million.
Vice Mayor John Spain said after the meeting today that he’s pleased but not surprised the council members present unanimously approved the grant application.
“This is something we all want,” he said.
Campbell couldn’t make it to the meeting because she lives in Atlanta and didn’t want to risk the hazardous weather conditions.
In a phone conversation with The Star after the meeting, she said she plans to file the application online by Wednesday.
Campbell estimates it will take between two and three months for the council to hear back from the National Endowment for Humanities, a government agency that describes itself as dedicated to supporting research, education and public programs in the humanities.
If the agency approves the application, Campbell said, the council will receive the grant money by October.
“If not, we’ll apply again … try, try, try again,” she said.
In other business, the council extended an engineering agreement between the city and Alabama Department of Transportation to January 2015 rather than allow the agreement to end this month.
The agreement is for ALDOT’s assistance with upgrading a traffic signal at the intersection of Alabama Highway 21 and Lenlock lane.
Council members agreed to postpone the rest of the meeting until 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, when they expect road conditions to be clear.
In that vein, Councilman David Dawson thanked city law enforcement and emergency agencies for their vigilance during the snowy, icy weather and in spite of its lingering effects on the roads.
“Thank you, Mr. Dean, the Police Department and Fire Department for working during this storm,” Dawson said, addressing Robert Dean, director of the Anniston Public Works Department, and the city police and fire chiefs, who were all present at the meeting.