FLORENCE — For more than 50 years, the gymnasium at the former Burrell-Slater School has been the site of countless events, from basketball games to seminars.
But for the first time, the gym will be air conditioned, making is more usable when the sweltering Alabama summer settles in.
Representatives from the Florence Board of Education have struck an agreement with a Florence City Council committee to pay half the cost. The full council is expected to approve the agreement soon.
"The gym could be used for many more things if it was air conditioned, especially in the summer," Councilman Dave Smith said during a meeting of the council's Finance Committee.
Connie Roberts, chief financial officer for the school board, said they have units that were removed from another school during a remodeling project. Using them, she said, will save a tremendous amount of money.
The estimated cost of installing the used units and related duct and wiring work is less than $30,000.
The Burrell-Slater complex, once a school in the pre-integration days, now houses a culinary center and is often used by a variety of community groups. It is also the site of a memorabilia room for the former Bradshaw and Coffee high schools.
"We are considering refinishing the floor (of the gym), and we are looking at making a community center," Roberts said. "We have a good partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department, and they are already using all our elementary school gyms for youth programs. This would give them another facility."
School board member Brad Dethero said air conditioning the gym would make it a desirable location for W.C. Handy Music Festival events, which would bring more of the festival honoring the home of the Father of the Blues into the community in which he was raised.
Council President Dick Jordan, who chairs the Finance Committee, said air conditioning the gym would make it usable year round. He said he will introduce the funding agreement to the full council soon.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.