GARLAND — The subject of Head Start services and the future of the town’s building will likely be broached by the town board at its Sept. 11 meeting, a day after the program is set to leave Garland for the foreseeable future. The town’s mayor said she fears the program won’t return.
Town officials say they have received no updates from Telamon Corporation since an Aug. 13 email from its director, Arvelis Byrd, to mayor Winifred Murphy informing her that the town would not be a site for Head Start services by the Sept. 10 start of the program year. In that email, Byrd cited necessary renovations in excess of $200,000 and said placing modular units in town as a temporary solution while repairs are made was not a possibility.
Murphy said Tuesday she has not heard from Telamon since being told two weeks ago that 3- and 4-year-old Head Start children would be bussed to Charles E. Perry in Roseboro or Union Elementary School until the facility received the work needed to pass inspection, and be licensed for Head Start services.
The town’s mayor said the matter will likely be on the Garland Board of Commissioners agenda at the next regular meeting as a point of possible discussion, to gauge what direction or course of action the town wants to take next.
“I’ll probably bring it up to see if they want to do anything else,” said Murphy.
Commissioner Matthew Register raised concerns during the last formal meeting between Telamon and Garland officials following a walkthrough nearly a month ago. “It feels like right now, when you walk out of this door, it’s going to be ‘see you later Garland.’ That’s how it feels,” said Register. “Everybody in this room feels this way.”
Byrd and other Telamon officials attended a July 26 special meeting, at which furious Garland board members and parents were first informed their children would be bussed to Roseboro or the Union School district because of the building’s current condition. Another meeting and facility walkthrough was scheduled less than a week later, at which point Register shared his feelings and Telamon executive director Richard Joanis reiterated that the company had not decided to close the doors in Garland forever, but they would not be opened by September.
The Aug. 13 email confirmed as much.
“It won’t be an inexpensive project by any means,” said Joanis. “We know that unless we are legally able to operate the program for the children, that we are dead in the water — and that’s where we are right now in terms of the facility we just left.”
Joanis said no promises were made to be in Garland, but was included in a sort of wish list of centers where Telamon wanted to have children served. The only promise was to serve 417 total children, 345 Head Start and 72 Early Head Start children.
There has been no communication between Murphy and Telamon in two weeks. Calls to Telamon Corporation and Byrd were not returned.
Telamon representatives have maintained that the Garland Head Start facility is in dire need of renovations, time-consuming and costly repairs that would not be made in time for children to be served at the Garland site. The HVAC system, windows, playground equipment, exposed pipes and chipped paint were also among repairs required to bring the building up to code.
“These reports will give us a baseline to go forward with the bidding process,” Byrd stated. “Our experience with these types of retrofits estimates project costs in excess of $200,000. Getting a facility ready for, and licensed to provide, services to children in Garland is not foreseen as a possibility by Sept. 10, our first day of programming in Sampson County for this program year.”
Asked whether there was any timeline given to the town as to when that bidding process would take place, Murphy said there was not. While repairs are estimated in excess of $200,000, Telamon officials said last month there was only about $60,000 to make those renovations. Additional funds could be sought by way of grants, but it would likely not be known until the end of this year or beginning of next whether those grant applications were successful, Byrd said.
Murphy said she has become less optimistic that the Garland site is a priority.
“I think they’re spending all that money at Charles E. Perry,” said Murphy. “It looks like they’re not coming back to Garland.”
The Garland town board will next meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11. The meeting will be held at the American Legion Post 502. located at 177 N. Church St., Garland.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.