CLOVERDALE — The Lauderdale County school system has sold the old Cloverdale School to the Cloverdale Volunteer Fire Department.
The department plans to use it for a new station and envisions additional community purposes.
Superintendent Bill Valentine said they sold the school, which was closed at the end of the previous school year, for $100,000.
“The school system felt like (the school) needed to continue to be used for community service,” Valentine said. “The volunteer fire department is probably one of the most involved groups of people out there, and since they already have a community center, this would be a good use to the community.”
Cloverdale Fire Chief Dwight Bogus said the department has no plans to tear down the school. Instead, they have a vision that includes a station, community park, shelter and site for community events.
“The community doesn’t want the school to disappear,” Bogus said. “This way, the station and the school will stay in the community and still benefit the community.”
Valentine said department officials told the board they are outgrowing the existing facility on Alabama 157, and it is at a site where getting fire trucks in and out can be difficult.
The school board has approves selling the property.
The existing station is near a hill and curve, giving fire-truck drivers and private motorists little warning if the engine is pulling onto the street while a motorist is coming down from the hill. It can also cause a problem when fire vehicles return to the station.
Bogus said there are times when precious minutes are lost in an emergency because firetruck drivers have to make sure the road is clear, and have limited vision space to do so.
“It’s going to help everyone,” he said. “Instead of having to wait five minutes to pull out of the station, we can see them and they can see us.”
Valentine said the selling price may appear low, but funding is difficult for any nonprofit organization such as the fire department, and it’s worth selling at a low price to a group that provides the services they do.
“We never intended to make a profit off this situation,” he said. “We also looked at it from the aspect of us no longer being liable for the upkeep and security of the building. That makes it a very desirable situation for us. We also know they will continue to keep the facilities up and in good working order, and that was very important to the community.”
Money also is key to the fire department’s plans of renovating the school into a station.
Bogus said once they get into the school and make more specific plans, they’ll be able to come up with cost estimates.
One big question involves what it will take to assure the bays are tall enough for the fire trucks, Bogus said.
The department’s board has a list of visions for community uses of the school.
Those include a park, walking trails, playground, football and baseball field, basketball court, storm shelter and shelter for families who lose homes to fires or natural disasters.
The plans also include a meetings and events location and availability for classes on subjects like storm spotting, children’s seminars and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Bogus said.
In addition, it has adequate space for the department’s Explorer Program, which provides youths ages 16 to 18 with department training for limited participation on calls.
Enrollment at the school, which was founded in 1897, had dropped to about 90 students in 2012, and the school already had been decreased from a K-9 school to K-6 configuration.
The closure involved a $750,000 per year savings to the school district, officials said.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.
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