Costly sprinkler system could close Garland Community Center
by Chris Berendt Staff Writer
The Garland Community Center will need extensive repairs to stay in operation, according to a recent fire marshal’s report.
The report listed recommendations from the fire marshal for two buildings, the Community Center and the old Southern Bank Building, in making them safer and fire code-compliant. Garland town clerk Jennifer Gray said fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems at the buildings were inspected.
“There are just a few items that would be needed,” said Gray. Commissioner Matthew Register pointed out one of those items, a sprinkler system in the Community Center.
“The hood system (fire suppression) has been tested, inspected and approved,” said Gray. “It’s just the exits and the sprinkler system throughout the building (that is needed).”
Register noted that purchasing and installing a sprinkler system for a 12,000 square foot building would be a large and costly endeavor.
“That pretty much puts that place out of use then,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Smith.
“I don’t have any idea how much that would cost,” Register said. Commissioner Michael Toler said it would be “expensive.”
Gray said the town must have the issues corrected by Monday, Aug. 26, or decide not to use the building.
The Community Center, which for decades served as the Garland Head Start site, was abandoned last year by new Head Start grantee Telamon Corporation, citing extensive renovations to meet federal mandates.
An environmental assessment revealed the presence of both lead paint and asbestos, and additional repairs to the HVAC system, windows, playground equipment, and some interior areas need attention to bring the building up to code. A six-digit cost was estimated to get it up to code.
County inspections director Myron Cashwell said it was OK to use the building for meetings, which the local N.C. STEP committee has done along with others. Garland officials have also explored the possibility of charging groups and other organizations to use the building in order to raise revenue for the town, which could in turn pay for some of the necessary renovations.
“Do we have any estimates of what this will cost?” Murphy asked.
“For that old building, looking at our budget, it wouldn’t have to be very expensive (not to be able to afford it),” said Register.
Smith said it could cost upwards of $150,000. Register said he wasn’t thinking it would be that high.
“All we can do is get a quote,” he noted.
Gray reminded the board that the town has $12,000 budgeted for maintenance and repairs of building, and part of that was to be used for pressure washing and other items. Those quotes are also being obtained, she said.
Register made a motion to obtain quotes for the sprinkler system, unanimously approved by the board. The cost of materials to install a ramp and handrails at the Community Center was tabled until the sprinkler system situation, and the overall status of the building, is resolved.
Office hours change
The Garland Board of Commissioners voted earlier this week that, while Wednesday is the day when the Town Hall holds abbreviated hours, those hours will be extended to 5 p.m. on deadline dates for town utility bills.
The Garland Town Hall is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. It is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Smith shared a concern that the early close on Wednesdays would be a detriment to Garland residents who were trying to pay their bills.
“If Wednesday falls on the 10th of the month I think we should stay here and keep the office open that whole day,” Smith said. “I know there have been several people who came down here to pay their bill and there wasn’t anybody here to take it and they had to pay that 10 percent (late fee). That’s not fair to them.”
Smith made a motion to keep the town offices open until 5 p.m. on those Wednesdays that fall on the 10th or the 20th of the month, the regular cutoff dates for the town’s utilities.
“I think that is fair,” Mayor Winifred Murphy said. “We’ve been penalizing by not accepting payments past 1 p.m. and that should not happen. The same thing is true when the office is closed from 12 to 1 p.m. and 1 to 2 p.m. We need to make sure our customers are served.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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