GARLAND — Two vacant town-owned buildings are poised to see new life.
At this week’s meeting, the Garland Board of Commissioners approved the use of both the old Southern Bank building and the recently-vacated Head Start facility, with a future permanent use of the latter to be explored even further.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Jay Parsons requested use of some office space for those deputies who patrol the town. Garland mayor Winifred Murphy said the police office within the town hall was now being utilized, and recommended to Parsons a portion of the bank building. She brought that recommendation to the board Tuesday night.
“I’ve taken over the police office that was in this building, because the former sergeant and officers were not using it and said they didn’t need it. Sgt. Parsons, however, would like some office space so they can do their reports,” said Murphy. “I don’t want to give up my office, so if you would please consider another office space.”
Murphy said she showed Parsons the old bank building, which Parsons said he could use if the town would approve it. There is a significant amount of space at the location, at 96 S. Ingold Ave., a portion of which could be utilized by the Sheriff’s Office.
“They could be able to go there and have a Sheriff’s Office in town,” said Murphy.
Parsons said having an office space would prove beneficial in completing reports.
“If our guys have reports or any kind of paperwork to do, some of that paperwork gets a little hard to do in the car,” said Parsons. “It’s a little easier if you can sit down somewhere and do it. It just makes it a lot more convenient and a lot neater if you’ve got somewhere you can sit down and do your proper paperwork. Commissioner Toler can tell you about that, I’m sure.”
The town’s last police chief, current commissioner Mike Toler, retired in the summer of 2008 and the police department was dismantled shortly thereafter upon action by the Garland town board, with coverage handed over to the Sheriff’s Office, who has been offering coverage to the town for the four years since.
While previous forms of the Garland law enforcement unit have not chosen to utilize the vacated Garland Police Department office, Parsons said, in addition to report-taking, establishing a physical location would assist in interviewing suspects and establishing a known address where people can come and share concerns if need be.
“Sometimes you’ll get victims who would rather come see you instead of you going to see them, because they don’t like the police at your house,” Parsons said. “It’s not that they don’t want to interact, they might have a report on their neighbor and they might not want everybody knowing their business. That’s understandable. It’s also a place we could use to talk to any suspect we have and take it from there. It just makes it a little easier to do those things here versus having to go to Clinton and do it.”
Commissioner Matthew Register made a motion to let the Sheriff’s Office utilize the break room of the old bank building, seconded by Toler and approved unanimously. Murphy said board members would be working with the Sheriff’s Office over the coming weeks to ensure the building was readied, to include availability of water, heat, electricity and telephone service.
Toler said the break room area of the old bank building, facing the park, would be the “most feasible” location. Cruisers parked at the corner of South Ingold Avenue and West Front Street could also serve as a deterrent, Toler noted.
“It’s a good location,” said Parsons. “It’s a good high-visibility area. They know you’re there. They see you in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, but it’s just not the same.”
Parsons said, when he was serving as a detective in the Roseboro and Autryville area, the Sheriff’s Office Roseboro unit — the Roseboro Police Department dissolved shortly after Garland’s — had a small office in the town hall. “It was just a small office, but I went in there and interviewed numerous suspects,” Parsons said. “It kept me from having to drive all the way back to Clinton. Everybody you talk to, you may not arrest that day. Everybody you talk to you may not arrest, period.”
Reports could be taken, and supplemental reports filed, all while staying in the area.
“It’s not just riding around checking doors and stopping cars,” said the sergeant said. “There’s lots of paperwork in our job.”
Head Start building
Now that grantee Telamon Corporation has officially moved out of the Garland Head Start facility on Church Avenue, town officials are discussing the possibility of preserving some of the history of the building and the prospect of reusing it in the future.
“As you’re aware, that building has been turned over to the town of Garland,” said Murphy. “It’s ours anyway, but Telamon is completely out and brought the last set of keys in yesterday.”
The water has been turned on, and the electricity is still on, but payment would eventually be transferred to the town. Murphy provided a list of items left in the building by Telamon and said the town can decide how it wants to reuse the building and those items it wishes to keep.
The items include books, furniture and toys, but there are also photo albums and certifications and pictures on the walls. Murphy said building inspector Myron Cashwell told her the main concern for any temporary use of the facility was handicap accessibility. She requested the electricity be kept on and the facility used for the N.C. STEP (Small Town Economic Prosperity) committee meetings.
“We can use it as as community center if we can get it cleaned up and working,” Murphy said. “N.C. STEP definitely would like to use it as a center we can use to have our meetings every month, so we would need to have electricity on in the building.”
Smith made a motion to leave the electricity on and hold STEP meetings there, while exploring other options for the facility. The motion was approved unanimously.
Long-term, the town would have to resolve asbestos and lead-based paint issues before any permanent use comes to fruition. Telamon cited those issues, as well as other costly renovations, in its decision not to forgo locating in Garland.
Murphy said she felt the building could still be of some use for the community well into the future.
“I think it’s a great building, if we can get the handicap access worked out,” said Murphy. “I was thinking this could make a great town hall or make a nice library. The library has such limited space. I just wanted to get your ideas and input of how the building could be used long-term. I’m thinking long-term because there are a lot of grants we could apply for for building reuse.”
Murphy recently walked through the building with town clerk Jennifer Gray and commissioner Haywood Johnson to survey the situation. She urged other board members to tour the facility to see for themselves what was left there, mentioning Toler, whose mother worked at the Head Start facility for many years.
“When we walked through, it was just kind of sad because they left behind photo albums — I saw your mom in many of those books,” Murphy said. “They took some things, but left a lot of memories there. We certainly want to preserve a lot of those things. It was really emotional for us to see what had been tossed back, the 5-star rating still up on the wall.”
“Children’s information, their personal information, they just left,” added Gray.
Murphy said she would like everyone to walk through the building at some point.
“I’d like everyone to see what was left,” the mayor said, “and what is very usable.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.