County donates fire station to help needy stay warm

By Billy Corriher

For years, Ellenwood resident Christine Starr struggled to pay her escalating gas bill in the winter.

"My gas bill was running over $500 or $600 a month," she said. "I'm 73 years old and my husband passed six years ago. I'm on a real fixed income."

Starr was a perfect candidate for the Clayton County Community Service Authority's weatherization program, which insulates the homes of low-income people and helps them keep their heat from being shut off.

"(The authority) was a big help," Starr said. "Since they put new windows in and tightened the doors, it's been a lot warmer."

The Rev. Charles Grant, executive director of the non-profit authority, said his organization has about 75 homes in three counties in the process of weatherization, all with only a crew of three people.

"We have very limited resources," Grant said.

The agency recently got a little relief when Clayton County decided to donate the old fire station off Aviation Boulevard for the agency's weatherization and transportation programs.

"It's really a godsend for us to get that place," Grant said. "That facility is exactly what we need."

The authority now has room to store materials, which they previously had to constantly replenish. The authority also has more room for its weatherization crew to work.

The transportation program, which gives rides to the elderly and children in the authority's Head Start and daycare programs, also will see many advantages in the new facility.

Grant said the authority's 40 buses would now be able to access modern dispatching technology.

"The building is in good shape," he said. "It would have been a shame to tear that building down." The county built a new fire station nearby, and the authority was grateful to take the building off its hands.

Grant said the authority is still strapped for resources, though, and has a wait list that can reach three or four months. Demand for the authority's services has shot up the past few years because of the rough economy.

And with local and state legislators still facing budget deficits, Grant said he hopes the authority does not see a reduction in funding.

"Gov. Perdue is asking for cuts in all programs, and we do see some funds from the state," he said. "We hope we don't see any cuts, because that would just devastate us."