Laurel Community Center seeks county funds for roof repair

MARSHALL – Members of the Laurel Community Center and the Laurel Community Center organization begged the county to fund the community center’s failing roof, with one member pointing out he didn’t even know if it would last all winter.

More than five members of the Laurel community spoke to the Madison County Board of Commissioners at the Nov. 16 board meeting at the NC Cooperative Extension in Marshall.

“We spent $20,000 on an irreparable roof,” Bobby Franklin said. “We have it where it doesn’t leak. We applied for a grant twice, and the only way to get part of that grant is to have another party participate who will give us $50,000 to $100,000 $ This roof had a 10 year warranty It has been on for 22 years.

“If it makes it through the winter, we’re in luck,” Franklin said. “We would like to ask for a simple donation of at least $75,000 to help cover the cost of the $200,000 roof.”

Keith Ray is the President of the Laurel Community Center Organization.

Ray said the county could potentially allocate American Rescue Plan Act funding to make improvements to the community center.

“I believe this request will help meet the needs of the people of the Laurel area, for sure, and the rest of Madison County – including, but not limited to, health, public safety, food security, rehabilitation, education, etc.,” Ray said.

According to Ray, problems at the site, located at 4100 NC 212 in Marshall, have persisted for years. Ray presented council members with the history of the LCCO, including a photo of Laurel Elementary School, which closed in 2016.

“We had a meal site on this campus, but that’s about it,” Ray said. “There was a failing septic tank. It was a treatment center that went into the creek. It failed. They were pumping and transferring sewage from the restoration site in Hot Springs and put it in municipal wastewater treatment.”

Cheoah Landis, a longtime Laurel resident who serves as a trustee of the LCCO, said she came to the council in support of the western and northern sections of Madison County, and the area’s youth in particular.

“I’m vice president of Hot Springs Elementary PTO, where my kids go to school,” Landis said. “The LCCO has grown rapidly over the past few years, confirming that there is a real need in our community for a place where we can all come together. We are a resource center for our community where resources are scarce. LCCO has had tremendous support from funders and donors as they see the need we are filling in their community, however this has not happened without the unwavering support of our Board of Directors. administration and dedicated volunteers.

According to Landis, the LCCO Grants Committee has received more than $111,000 in competitive grants and received more than $200,000 from community donors.

But much of that money went toward repairs to the building, Landis said.

“Since 2019, we have spent approximately $50,000 on septic systems and plumbing, over $35,000 on upgrades for more efficient heating and air conditioning, (and) over $11,000 on electrical work, over 20,000 $ in roof repairs,” Landis said. “Additionally, $50,000 for the old Ag building has been completed.”

The LCCO maintains more than 50 volunteers who contribute about 4,000 hours a year, according to Landis.

“We want to continue to be a resource and provide services and opportunities to all members of our community,” Landis said. “We especially want to provide space for young people to grow and thrive in our community. Laurel’s children now go to Hot Springs Elementary, but we want to remain a constant for them right here in our community as they grow. LCCO plays a very important role here in the low-income section of the county that would otherwise be without these resources and opportunities that we work hard to provide.”

Barbara Zimmerman, the treasurer of the Laurel Community Center, also appeared before the board to request funding for the building’s roof replacement.

According to Zimmerman, the two community center buildings comprise 22,000 square feet.

Like Landis, Zimmerman said the complex performs a number of vital functions in the Laurel community, including housing more than 1,200 residents who participate in the voting process at the center, which serves as the Laurel community’s polling station. during the elections.

“We are also the site of the French Broad Electric Membership high-speed Internet for the entire Laurel community, which serves more than 800 homes,” Zimmerman said. “We provide free campus-wide Wi-Fi and a free community internet room. We provide space for the Shelton Laurel Meals Site, which serves 11,220 meals a year to seniors. »

In the November 30 edition of The News-Record & Sentinel, the newspaper will discuss with members of local community centers the many grants received earlier this month.

Jill E. Washington