Archived News

Canton begins to explore rebuilding flood-damaged facilities

The door to the Colonial Theatre’s annex hangs limply from its hinges following flooding on Aug. 17, 2021. Cory Vaillancourt photo The door to the Colonial Theatre’s annex hangs limply from its hinges following flooding on Aug. 17, 2021. Cory Vaillancourt photo

In addition to the devastating loss of life and tremendous damage to private property, Tropical Storm Fred caused millions in damage to facilities owned and maintained by the Town of Canton. During a Jan. 27 all-day budget retreat, town staff and elected officials began to make some decisions on what, how and when to rebuild.

“We’re pursuing rebuilding and mitigation on all these projects, but we’re also trying to prioritize fire, police and town hall,” said Canton Town Manager Nick Scheuer. 

As far as town hall goes, Scheuer said that there was a “98% chance” the town would take a buyout on the William G. Stamey Building that served as town hall and police headquarters for 53 years. 

In considering options for a new town hall, Scheuer said the town must plan not just for a reopening of the administrative center, but also for the population growth and resultant staffing needs over the next 40 to 50 years. 

Given the cost of building a brand-new facility from scratch, Scheuer estimates that a new town facility would have $9.9 million in unmet needs, even after FEMA and insurance monies arrive. 

Retrofitting an existing building would leave a hole of about $3 million and also produce a much quicker timeline. 

Related Items

For the next year, Scheuer and town staff will continue to operate out of temporary facilities; during the retreat, the board approved a $100,000 contract to establish a temporary town hall in modular structures that will be located near the town garage, on Summer Street. The town believes the cost will be reimbursed by FEMA. 

“We are happy to remain in our temporary facilities until we can make the right choices,” Scheuer said. 

The future of Canton’s police station may or may not be tied to a permanent town hall, and the town is still exploring its options. 

The fire department, located behind the Stamey Building, may be salvageable as long as it’s retrofitted to become more flood resistant. 

The same goes for the Canton Historical Museum, located right next door to the Stamey Building, on Park Street. 

But tough choices will also have to be made regarding the town-owned Colonial Theatre, located just across Park Street. 

The historic theatre has been the subject of discussions before, as it’s been underutilized for years and costs the town a substantial amount of money for upkeep each year. Scheuer said that all options are still on the table, and Alderman Tim Shepard raised the idea of leasing it to an operator that would be dedicated to making it into more of a bustling community attraction that would provide entertainment for locals and lure tourists to Canton’s downtown. 

The property next door, which was slated to become another location for Waynesville-based Kim’s Pharmacy, will likely end up with a buyout as well, perhaps giving the town the opportunity to build some sort of flood mitigation feature, like a wall. 

Dr. Ralph Hamlett, the Canton alderman who lost his downtown home in the flooding, cautioned against strong community pushback if the integrity of the theatre is compromised in any way. 

Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers opined that the issue of the Colonial would likely require a special meeting dedicated solely to its fate — much like the 2018 meeting  in which the building’s annual income was revealed to be around $18,000 a year, far below operating cost. 

Two other town-owned facilities, the armory on Penland Street and the 100-acre Camp Hope facility, were also damaged and are in need of substantial repair. 

During the flooding of 2004, Camp Hope wasn’t damaged, but this time, it didn’t fare as well. The entry bridge has been compromised and the bathrooms were destroyed, so it’s currently offline. Three cabins that were just rehabbed were also flooded and will have to be rebuilt, but the main building and the caretaker’s house weathered the water relatively well. The property did not carry flood insurance, so rebuilding will depend largely on how much money the town receives from FEMA. 

The site is popular for church retreats, family reunions and weddings, and is usually booked “pretty far out,” according to town CFO Natalie Walker. 

Another popular in-town site, the Armory, will also see some changes to get it back online as quickly as possible. 

“It literally is a hub for our community,” said Alderwoman Kristina Smith Proctor. 

The wood floors, damaged by flooding, won’t be replaced. Something like polished concrete will likely be utilized instead. A flood wall could be constructed around the property, and any available funding may include the addition of an elevator that would make the second floor compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, opening up more potential for the historic space. 

Leave a comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.