Calera mayor on fire museum: ‘We want to get this’

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

CALERA – The city of Calera has proposed locating Shelby County’s fire museum on Alabama 25, about two blocks from the Interstate 65 interchange at exit 228.

“We’re real excited about the potential for this fire museum to be located in Calera,” Calera Mayor Jon Graham said April 5. “My community is behind me 100 percent, and we want to get this museum.”

Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock said he would likely decide April 8 between Calera and Pelham and make his recommendation to the County Commission on April 11.

The proposed 4.35-acre site in Calera is located next to the Chevron station on Alabama 25 and has been owned by the city for several years, Graham said.

Dudchock called it a “prime location” on Alabama 25.

The site is “perfect” for the museum “because of the proximity of the Shelby County Museum, the Washington Museum, the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, American Village, Shelby Ironworks and Brierfield Ironworks Park,” Graham wrote in a cover letter for the city’s proposal.

Calera, in its proposal, said it could contribute $625,425 in initial funds, including $495,000 for the land and a $25,000 cash contribution from the city’s Industrial Development Board.

Listed additional annual contributions include $6,000 for property maintenance. The Calera Chamber pledged to raise additional direct and in-kind contributions of $250,000.

It would cost an estimated $25,000 for two full-time staff employees at the museum, which would be paid for from museum revenues and city and county contributions, documents show.

Graham said it “makes good sense” to locate the fire museum in Calera, about a half-mile from the existing Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum.

“It just makes sense to me that we have a two for one stop,” Graham said. “We put two museums in one city – that’s a true destination city that can house two museums or more.

“We have had people from all over the United States visit our heart of Dixie Railroad Museum,” Graham added, “and we hope that we can say the same for the fire museum.”

Graham said he obtained written letters of support from most Calera businesses, and that the Chamber of Commerce would have “daily involvement” with the fire museum.

“Calera’s proposal and site that they submitted was strong,” Dudchock said. “They have a lot of synergy going on among their leadership.”

The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum was targeted early on as a possible location for the fire museum. From November 2009 through September 2010, county officials met several times with officials from Calera and officials from the railroad museum, county documents show.

Railroad museum, county and Calera officials visited a private fire museum in Louisville, Miss., on March 4, 2010, according to county documents. During the trip, which was also attended by the former firefighter donating the collection for the museum, they discussed a joint museum on property owned by the railroad museum, documents show.

A proposed joint venture for a rail/fire museum had fizzled out by September 2010, according to county documents.

The county sent out a request for proposals to 55 entities Dec. 17, 2010, and Calera responded.

Calera’s Bill Davis said he supports the proposed fire museum location, both as a lifelong citizen and business owner.

“As far as the citizens go, it’s one of the greatest things that could possibly happen,” said Davis, 39, who owns the Sav-Mor Food Outlet on Alabama 25. “Between the proposed fire museum location and being right around the corner of the rail museum, we’re right in the middle of that path.”