The town of Garland will be keeping the old bank building open to visitors during the holiday season, after receiving positive reviews on the use of the space on South Ingold Avenue during a recent event.
The Garland Board of Commissioners approved the move to man the old Southern Bank building with volunteer staff for the short term, and consider whether the site could ultimately become a Visitor Information Center, maybe even the future site of the Garland Town Hall, down the line.
Mayor Winifred Murphy brought the issue to the board at its recent meeting.
“The old bank building was used during the town of Garland’s recent Christmas tree lighting,” she said. “We set it up and it was really beautiful. A lot of people came in and were just amazed by all that was in there.”
At the last N.C. Small Towns Economic Prosperity (STEP) meeting for the town, there was discussion about the possibility of establishing a Visitor Information Center, she noted. “I was just giving you that to think about, to see if we could perhaps keep the bank open to use as a Town of Garland annex,” said Murphy.
She mentioned possibly having some improved signage on the building and stock the annex with postcards, key chains, pamphlets, brochures and other “little things” that proudly advertise Garland. “I think they would love to see something that we could be proud of, some history in Garland,” said Murphy, who noted that local citizens past and present could also be honored through displays on a monthly basis.
Murphy put it to the commissioners. She said the annex would not be manned by paid town staff, but various church groups, merchants and other organizations that could be scheduled to operate the space on a volunteer basis.
“The other idea that came from us being in the building is ‘why not have town hall on that corner?’” said Murphy. “That could, maybe, be long term, but short term we were thinking that it could be something that could brighten up the town of Garland.”
It would likely be open for a couple of hours a day for set days during the week, although no set hours were established by the town.
The building has enjoyed a new life in recent weeks, as the town just last month approved another use for it.
Last month, the Garland board approved the use of the old bank building upon a request by Sheriff’s Sgt. Jay Parsons, who sought some office space for the deputies who patrol the town. With the former Garland Police Department office being utilized, Murphy recommended to Parsons a portion of the bank building. Town officials noted 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.
Parsons said having an office space would prove beneficial in completing reports and paperwork without having to sit in the car or go all the way back to Clinton. Deputy Travis Pope echoed that sentiment earlier this week, thanking the board for allowing the use of the building.
The Sheriff’s Office currently utilizes the break room of the old bank building, which was deemed the “most feasible” location by town officials. Cruisers parked at the corner of South Ingold Avenue and West Front Street could also serve as a deterrent, Commissioner Mike Toler noted.
“It’s a good location,” Parsons has said. “It’s a good high-visibility area. They know you’re there.”
Joyce Miles, Garland resident and a leader in the N.C. STEP effort, said continuing to use that building — and expanding its use — could prove even more beneficial.
“I think it is a good thing to have the building open,” Miles said. “It is a building on a main road, and it just looks so much better as a busy street, with people moving about in the area.”
Commissioner Matthew Register said the uses did not have to stop there.
“I would be in favor of that being town hall, if we could make the move,” said Register. “Just it being right there and being with the Sheriff’s Department, but I don’t know how much space we would have and how hard a move that would be.”
Commissioner Ralph Smith said he felt the topic should be brought back for further discussion at a work session. Murphy said she simply wanted the commissioners to approve a short-term use and be thinking about the possibilities of a long-term use.
“It’s just something that I kind of wanted to throw out there for you about town hall,” said Murphy. “But the Information Center, until we can make that decision, I just wanted your permission to leave it open during the Christmas holidays and just see what happens.”
Smith made a motion to keep the building open during the holidays, which Murphy deemed the Garland Annex, as long as it is staffed with volunteers. The vote was unanimous.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.