Fort Morgan receives upgrades ahead of weekend celebration

FORT MORGAN, Ala. (WALA) – When you have a fort that has withstood cannon fire and hurricanes over 150 years, it’s going to need a bit of upkeep.

“The materials and the techniques that we’re having to use here are different from standard upgrades and repairs because of the inclement weather and the harsh conditions that the fort faces every day being on the, directly on the Gulf Coast,” Dr. Stephen McNair, the director of historic sites for the Alabama Historical Commission, said.

Fort Morgan is getting a series of upgrades, the most extensive involves repair work to the stairs and guardrails along the fort itself.

“The types of railing, types of stairs, types of repointing we’re doing on the brick is built to last,” McNair said.

It will last about 50 years, according to McNair. But building to last isn’t cheap. The improvements will cost about $1.3 million, which comes from the county’s lease tax.

“The lease tax is divided up between the, Fort Morgan gets a percentage, Blakeley gets a percentage, the county commission gets a percentage, and then the legislative delegation itself gets a percentage,” Baldwin County Commissioner Skip Gruber said.

Gruber said the designation for Fort Morgan has been in place since 2007. Beyond the stair and guard rail repairs, nearly $428,000 of lease tax money went toward transforming the first sergeant’s house into a food shop and reconstructing the union siege lines from the Battle of Mobile Bay.

“We’re trying to use the lease tax money to the best of our ability to keep every dollar local, but also use it for the betterment and the preservation and longevity of the fort,” McNair said.

It’s not just local tax money that’s going toward maintaining the fort. The Historical Commission also has nearly $200,000 in BP settlement money with which to work.

“We received an allocation as part of the BP Oil Spill settlement. And with that money, we’ve taken it and split it into two sectors: one for capital improvement, which of course are for the 150th anniversary, but will last thereafter and then the other half for the reenactment itself,” McNair said.

Some of those capital projects include a new ticket booth, a new 50 foot flag pole, repairs to the hot shot furnace, and replacing pieces needed to work some of the cannons.

As for the Fort Morgan Pier, which was barricaded Thursday, there is some good news there as well.

“We are going to reopen it next week and it will remain open thereafter until Labor Day. After that it will be closed while we try and secure funding to make the necessary repairs,” McNair said.

He said they hope to get a combination of state, local and county funding that would allow the pier to reopen for good once again.

McNair said the full repairs to the Fort Morgan stairs and railing should be done within a few months.

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