Alexandria Community Center

ALEXANDRIA — Residents of central Calhoun County have a handier place to buy licenses and renew car tags.

The Calhoun County License Commission office opened an annex Friday in the basement of the old Methodist church in Alexandria. Residents will be able to get titles, business licenses and pistol permits at the annex.

The office is only one part of an Alexandria development that opened Friday. The project, named the Alexandria Community Center, was spearheaded by Calhoun County Commissioner J.D. Hess and includes an adjoining park with a waterfall, landscaping and a pavilion for rent.

The park and the office were developed in the old church and on grounds that adjoin the building, which had been purchased by Ronnie Carr, a local resident, and leased to the county for $1. County employees spent months developing the park and renovating parts of the old church, and informally opened the annex about a month ago.

The property will be bought, officials say, once money promised by the local legislative delegation is secured.

“We talked about this several years back before the economy got bad,” Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, said. “We don’t know where it stands right now.”

He said the legislative delegation plans to provide about $175,000 to purchase the land. But it’s now unclear when or if the delegation will be able to secure funding to buy the land. The total cost of the project, should the property purchase eventually go through, will be about $300,000.

Employees from the office of Calhoun County Revenue Commissioner Karen Roper will be stationed at the annex between October and January, during the busy property tax collection season. The annex will serve Ohatchee, Alexandria and Jacksonville primarily, but it will be open to all county residents.

Both Roper and Calhoun County License Commissioner Barry Robertson said it’s not clear whether the annex will take a significant amount of traffic away from the main office in Anniston.

Friday a few residents visited the office to renew their vehicle tags. At least two said they appreciate the convenience, which saves them a 20-mile round trip.

A week ago, however, about 105 transactions took place in the Alexandria office, an employee said.

It’s the second such center Hess has established in the county. The first was the Saks Community Center. The county’s only other annex is in Piedmont, which is about 25 miles from Anniston.

The community center’s development comes as property tax revenue dwindles and governments struggle to rebound from the severe economic distress that spanned the nation in recent years.

“Sometimes when times are tough is the best time to develop,” Hess said. “You get better deals.”

Hess said the community center and park will help improve quality of life for residents in Alexandria. A small fellowship hall and the park pavilion are available for rent. It remains unclear how other portions of the building, such as the sanctuary, will be used.