GARLAND — With Head Start gone, Garland town officials are looking for ways in which they can use the old school building that long housed the program but was vacated by new grantee Telamon Corporation before they ever offered services at the site.
The matter came up briefly during this week’s special meeting of the Garland Board of Commissioners.
Garland mayor Winifred Murphy told the board that a window was broken out at the Church Street facility “about a month ago” and people had used the facilities restrooms.
“Someone had been in the building and used the bathrooms,” she said. Telamon property coordinator Bill Buckner requested the town turn on the water so that restrooms and other areas of the facility could be cleaned up, which the town obliged.
However, also on the topic of the facility, Murphy noted that Telamon had been removing the items it had brought to the facility, as well as some that had been a part of the center for decades.
“They were moving stuff out of there and said the federal government paid for the freezers and refrigerators — they were even taking out those deep sinks,” the mayor remarked. “I went by and said ‘what in the world are you doing?’ It was part of the old Garland school. They have since reconnected (the sinks).”
She said Telamon was expected to be out of the facility in the near future — there were toys, books and other items being stored there, some tagged for disposal and others that were expected to be moved to Telamon’s utilized facilities.
The move leaves Garland residents to decide what to do with the building, following months of discussion about the prospect of extensive renovations and Head Start’s departure as a result.
Telamon executive director Richard Joanis expressed certainty in early September that opening the facility would not happen until at least next year, if then. Renovations at the aged school would be a minimum of $200,000, possibly much more. An environmental assessment revealed the presence of both lead paint and asbestos, reports for which were given to town officials.
Program officials previously noted the HVAC system, windows, playground equipment, exposed pipes and chipped paint as being among the problem areas that would need attention to bring the building up to code.
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. Joanis said there is currently not enough funds available to cover the repairs.
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 at the end of July (see later story in The Independent for update). A facility walk-through was subsequently conducted, following which Joanis reiterated that the company had not decided to close the doors in Garland forever, but they would not be opened by September. He later expanded that time frame.
Joanis said he knew the situation was frustrating for Garland town officials and parents, but it was “not unusual” when talking about a site that has hosted the same services for 40 years. “You can grandfather some of the licensing for those facilities and a lot of code changes get grandfathered too,” Joanis said. “But, once a program changes hands, it’s a whole new ballgame.”
The town is now looking toward the future, and a possible use for the school building.
“(Buckner) left me with the keys and said they would hopefully be through with the building by this week,” Murphy said. “I want to see what you want to do with that building. I hope we can find a way to fix that building or use that building.”
Murphy threw out possible ideas, to include a community center or public center of some sort. She said the town would have to consider the asbestos and lead paint reports and inquire as to the possibility of housing something there for the public and what kind of steps would be required to do that.
“We need to see if it is possible to use it in an other way,” said Murphy, “and not have to get it up to the federal standards of Telamon.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.