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Haywood to patch up Pigeon Center, albeit reluctantly

When Haywood County put up $35,000 to replace a chronicly leaky roof on the Pigeon Community Center in Waynesville, it was both a tangible and symbolic gesture, one that saved a major landmark of African-American community from certain demise.

Two years later, the roof is still leaking. It hasn’t been fixed. The list of dire repairs needed for the building have grown. And the cost has doubled from $35,000 to $70,000.

But the community center can barely scrape together enough money to provide programs and services, let alone keep up an aging building.

“There is absolutely no chance they could come up with funds. And if they did, it would be at the detriment of any programming they are trying to do, which would defeat the whole purpose of having the community center,” Commissioner Mark Swanger said.

The building is technically still owned by the county, although the Pigeon Community Club gets free use of it. Commissioners discussed whether to pony up the additional funds earlier this month.

“We own the property and have an interest in seeing that it doesn’t deteriorate,” Swanger said.

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In the process of fixing the roof, critical structural problems were discovered that had to be fixed first, or the new roof wouldn’t do any good.

So commissioners upped the repair allotment from $35,000 to $47,000 this summer. But more problems have since been found. 

“This went over budget and that’s why we are back,” County Manager Ira Dove said.

Commissioner Kevin Ensley was ready to put the project behind them.

“Just get it fixed,” Ensley said, throwing his hands up. “Every time it seems we get past it, it comes back up.”

Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick said the county faces the same issue with other old schools that have been deeded over to community clubs and organizations. How long should the county maintain these buildings for use by the community clubs, he posed.

“I don’t think most of these community clubs have the money to do this,” Kirkpatrick said.

Limited preventative maintenance over the decades has led to chronic building woes at the Pigeon Center in particular, which served as an all-black school during the segregation era. It is now a gathering place for the black community and offers programs for underserved populations.

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