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August 20, 2004

AIDB considers merger with Montgomery area center for deaf

From: Daily Home Online, AL - Aug 20, 2004

Blair Hadley

TALLADEGA The Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind is actively pursuing the possibility of a merger with a privately-run center for the deaf in Montgomery.

During a meeting Thursday, the AIDB Board of Trustees openly discussed the possibility of a merger with the Janice Capilouto Center for the Deaf, a private, non-profit organization specializing in providing services to adults in Montgomery.

AIDB President Terry Graham said the merger is an attractive idea because the services currently provided by the AIDB center in Montgomery primarily focus on children, whereas JCCD programs are concerned exclusively with adults.

If the merger takes place, JCCD would essentially be absorbed into the state-run AIDB system, providing services such as job placement and translation to adults in the Montgomery area.

"I think that JCCD is an outstanding program that's doing an outstanding job serving Montgomery and the outlying counties," Graham said. "I'm very pleased that they would give consideration to an opportunity to be a part of us."

Graham said that several obstacles still must be given serious consideration by both organizations before a decision regarding the merger could be reached.

"I am very excited about it, but I am also realistic about it," he said. "We would have to make certain that if they have financial difficulties it would not be a burden on AIDB. We can't put existing programs at risk."

Graham also said he had some concerns about personnel issues because the system of benefits such as health insurance and retirement are likely to be different between the two organizations.

JCCD Executive Director Lynne Stokley was not present at Thursday's meeting, but said she had similar concerns regarding employee benefits.

"We certainly want to give consideration to issues that are important to staff and their employment consideration," she said.

Stokley said that in spite of the potential obstacles that might hinder the merger process, she still felt that the two organizations could mutually benefit from a partnership of some kind.

"I'm optimistic about the possibilities of building a stronger partnership whether that be a merger or if it just results in ways which we discover to improve services to people who are deaf and hard of hearing," she said. "We're just trying to explore ways that we can better work together."

Graham said it would be several months before a decision regarding the merger would be reached and that there was still much to be discussed.

"I think we're a good six months away from being able to get a decision made," Graham said. "The bottom line is that if we can make it work to improve services to people who are deaf, then moving forward with this is a positive for both programs."

In other business Thursday, the board:

o Approved the surplus and sale of the buildings and land formerly occupied by Alabama Industries for the Blind, located at the intersection of Nimitz Avenue and Marshall Street in the Brecon area.

o Passed a resolution authorizing renovations to several dormitories and classrooms at AIDB using $100,000 the institute will receive from the Public School and College Authority.

o Authorized the purchase of four new school buses, totaling $247,764.

o Announced the appointment to the AIDB Executive Committee of Jake Montgomery of Talladega as chairman, Morris Savage of Dothan as vice chairman, Joseph Johnson of Dothan, Melissa Williamson of Birmingham, Bunny Gamble of Huntsville and Chip Dobbs of Huntsville.

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