Cleburne County Commission

Christy Hiett (at center), leader of the nonprofit Cleburne Cancer Concerns, speaks to the Cleburne County Commission about a grant to pay for research and education about cancer cases in the Fruithurst and Muscadine areas. (Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)

HEFLIN — The Cleburne County Commission on Monday heard a request from the leader of the nonprofit Cleburne Cancer Concerns for help with a federal grant.

Cleburne Cancer Concerns is trying to find the cause or causes of cancer in the Fruithurst and Muscadine areas by having soil and water tests done in the affected locations.

Christy Hiett, the leader of the nonprofit, who is also principal of Fruithurst Elementary School, told the commissioners that she helped Auburn University professors write a three-year grant proposal to conduct extend cancer research, education, soil and water testing and other things.

The National Science Foundation grant is for $1.6 million, according to Hiett, and her group would receive $250,000 if awarded — the rest would go to Auburn University for research.

Hiett said she needs the commission to channel the federal money to Cleburne Cancer Concerns because the group only received its federal nonprofit status in June of 2018.

“We’re too young to receive this kind of money,” Hiett said.

Hiett said the money will be used to hire a community outreach person to do more surveys, educational programs for schools, travel, and to pay for accounting expenses and equipment.

Hiett said the community outreach position salary would be $45,000 per year.

Hiett has worked for years to find the root causes of the cancers in the Fruithurst and Muscadine areas.

“They told me I couldn’t be a one-woman show much longer,” Hiett said.

“Cancer cases are much greater than we expected and we currently know that we’ve had 38 cases of leukemia and lymphoma since 1987, so it’s much higher than we thought,” said Hiett.

The commissioners took no vote on Hiett’s request at the informal work session Monday.

After the meeting, commissioner Laura Cobb, whose district includes Fruithurst and Muscadine, said it would be good to have a community outreach person.

“I think that they have worked hours and hours and they can’t keep doing this, they’ve got to have help and would it would be better if they had someone that was designated to do it 40 hours a week for Cleburne County,” Cobb said.

Cobb also said it’s very important to educate students about environment concerns at all Cleburne County schools.

The commission also discussed other items which will be voted on at next week’s meeting, including the award of a bid for a new severe weather siren at Coleman Lake.  

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.

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