Center, gym discussed

Published 9:38 am Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A public comment seeking the council’s assistance in organizing more community events in the Kenbridge Community Center was followed by a discussion on the future of the center and the nearby former gymnasium.

Angela Hardy, of Kenbridge, addressed the council about implementing community-based programs in the center for area youth.

Hardy, who was raised in Lunenburg, said she had worked in Fairfax County as an event planner in a Fairfax-based after-school program called School-Age Child Care (SACC). The organization planned events and activities to engage kids and families in the elementary school system.

One of her favorite events, Hardy said, was a March Madness-themed basketball championship where the students organized their own basketball teams and played games during the event.

She discussed placing murals throughout the center made by students throughout the area.

“We could even do, like, a little competition between the schools about who could have the best drawings to be put up in our community center,” Hardy said.

Hardy also suggested community gatherings where classes could be held for financial planning, parenting or other subjects.

“You can’t always just sit here and complain like, ‘We don’t have this,’ and ‘We don’t have that.’ You aren’t going to have anything (if) you don’t do anything about it,” Hardy said. “It’s only going to work if we, the community ourselves, do it.”

“You’ll find that this council supports 100 percent if you wanted to start a program like that; it just needs to be well organized,” Hodges said, noting that child safety was also important.

“This building was once a school. There’s a gymnasium, there’s a town park, there could be outdoor activities,” Hodges said. “It’s right here waiting for you.”

“This really is a beautiful building, and we really need people like you with a lot of energy,” Councilman Mike Bender said. “Obviously you’re passionate

about your ideas, and we’d love to partner with you and maybe even come up with a structured idea of what you propose to do.”

Later in the meeting, Hodges addressed questions from members of the community who asked about the reason for selling the community center.

“It’s important to understand that this building is a large building, and it costs a lot of money to operate and maintain,” Hodges said. “We haven’t been able to fill it up like we had expected. If we had rented all of the rooms in here or if we … had the community college come in — we’ve tried the community college several times — it would be a different ballgame.”

“The idea to put it up for sale was just, ‘Let’s see if we can get a lot of money to pay it off,’ but that’s a double-edged sword,” Hodges said. “I don’t think you can get what you need to get for it, and I don’t know if selling it is the right answer. I don’t know what the answer is … I don’t think it’s going to be sold. But I guess we have to ride it out for a while.”

Concerning the former gymnasium, Town Manager Robyn Fowler said there had been no recent development except from a member of the public who asked about the selling price of the gym for private use.

Hodges suggested looking into ways to potentially use funds from land or timber sales within the town for the gym.

Town Attorney Calvin Spencer said, “We need to make sure to thoroughly investigate that. I think I shared with Robyn that that money has to be used for economic development.”

Hodges spoke about other issues relating to the building, including potential maintenance hazards and the potential for its demolition.

“We keep turning ourselves around to the idea of demolishing it,” Hodges said. “Once we do that, it’s gone. We can’t get it back. We don’t have the money to spend on it, but if we can find somebody to spend on it …”

“Any way we could come up with a creative way to save it,” he said, “I think that’s a lot better than demolishing it.”