GARLAND — Mayor Winifred Murphy wants to see the town’s community center reopened, but commissioners said it’s not the right time.
The abandoned building was discussed during a recent meeting. The mayor said believes having empty facilities gives Garland a “ghost town” or dilapidated look.
“It just does not look good,” Murphy said while addressing her concerns about how it may keep people from shopping or living in the area. “They see on one side of town, things moving upwards and on the other side they see buildings torn up.”
Murphy’s vision is to have a facility which can be used for community functions, such as a recent mural dedication, which was held at Saint Stephen AME Zion Church. Murphy said the abandoned structure, which was once a school building, could be used for that purpose.
She continued and said the board has a responsibility to provide services to residents and mentioned how the municipality has the highest tax rate with 72 cents per $100.
Commissioners said, at the present time, the town can not afford to renovate the building, but Murphy said with private donations, fundraisings and the transfer of recreation funds, the possibility of making improvments is likely. If the building was to open, Murphy said, it could be used for indoor recreation purposes.
“We got to have some vision,” she said. “If we sit here and don’t do nothing and not act, it’s going to be a dream. And every day is passing us by …”
Her colleagues had different opinions on the building renovation. Commissioner Ralph Smith and others say they feel buildings such as the senior center and the town’s garage should be taken care of first. Some of the other commissioners agreed.
“You need your needs met before you have your frills met,” Smith said while discussing infrastructure improvements.
After a unanimous vote was made to table the request, other commissioners chimed in on the matter. Commissioner Denise Toler said the senior facility should be top priority.
“Our seniors matter, they’re there now,” Toler said. “Winter is coming and all signs point to it being a rough winter.”
She also turned down her suggestion to use funding from the recreation department to pay for it. Commissioner S.J. Smith mentioned the ongoing upkeep of the building such as bills and insurance.
“Who’s going to pay for that?,” S.J. Smith asked. “The town’s going to pay for it.”
Commissioner Carolyn Melvin said it was a wonderful idea, but agreed with about meeting other needs first.
“It’s a good idea, but we just can’t do it right now,” Melvin said. “It’s something that we would use every now and then. It’s not something that we need right now. It’s not going to be bringing in money on a daily basis.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Haywood Johnson added that he does not want to get started.
“I believe in taking care of H-O-M-E first, right here,” he said referring to town hall. “We have not done nothing to this.”
Johnson also mentioned vehicle repairs and other maintenance needs.
Following their comments, Murphy continued to stress her idea about the building.
“I hear what all of you are saying about the community building, but again, when you have buildings boarded up, that belongs to the town, it sends a poor message,” Murphy said.
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