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Jackson domestic violence shelter moves forward

The new domestic violence shelter will be built on a piece of property donated by Mountain Projects. Donated photo The new domestic violence shelter will be built on a piece of property donated by Mountain Projects. Donated photo

Jackson County has approved an architectural contract and laid out a timeline for the construction of its domestic violence shelter, acting on a plan that has been several years in the making. 

“This is really the next step in this process of bringing the contract before the board so that we can move forward with the domestic violence shelter process,” said County Manager Don Adams. 

The Center for Domestic Peace took over domestic violence services from REACH of Macon County a few years ago, and since then has been sharing office space with REACH. As of July 1, CDP took over sexual assault and human trafficking services  from REACH as well, making it completely independent from the Macon organization and allowing REACH of Macon to focus its resources solely on Macon County. 

REACH of Macon County had been in charge of domestic violence services in Jackson County since 2012. The Center for Domestic Peace formed in 2013. Since that time, REACH of Macon has helped provide services and staff in Jackson and welcomed Jackson County residents in need of shelter to its facility in Franklin. However, traveling out of county can be a hindrance  to those seeking services. 

“We are incredibly grateful,” CDP Director Welsey Myers told The Smoky Mountain News earlier this year. “When I took my job two years ago, I had no idea we would be at this point. This is huge, leaps and bounds forward for the county and for the survivors we get to serve.”

Jackson County Commissioners decided last year to spend about a quarter of its $8.5 million American Rescue Plan funds on the construction of a domestic violence shelter. Dogwood Health Trust provided a match of $2.05 million and Mountain Projects donated the 2.2-acre parcel, just off N.C. 107 south of downtown Sylva, for the building. 

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In the meantime, CDP will remain in the office space it had previously shared with REACH of Macon County. 

“Now that Center for Domestic Peace is taking over all of the space where REACH of Macon County previously occupied, they are asking for a new lease,” County Attorney Heather Baker told the county commission during its July 19 meeting. 

The lease would begin Oct. 1, allowing time for the mandatory 30-day notice period in case there is input from the public, and last three years and nine months. Because the county is leasing to a nonprofit, the lease can be longer than one year. The notice period began July 19, when commissioners voted unanimously to authorize the publication of the lease arrangement. Commissioners will likely see the actual lease agreement at a September meeting. 

County Manager Don Adams has signed a short-term lease with CDP to allow time for this lease to move forward. CDP currently operates inside the county building above the library. When the new shelter is completed, a small portion of staff focused on residential services will move to the new location, the rest will remain in current offices. 

The architect chosen for the project is Clark Nexsen. The plan is to construct a 7,000-square-foot two-story building. The property will be fenced. Estimated total cost is just over $4 million. The county has three years to spend the grant money from Dogwood. 

The approved contract outlines 285 days of programming, design, development and other preparations, and 300 days of construction. The full project is estimated to take around two years to complete. The fee for Clark Nexsen is $330,000, while the estimated actual construction cost is $3.5 million. The rest of the money is being spent on costs associated with the project itself. 

“The timeline matches up so hopefully everything moves forward,” said Adams. “We have a two-year timeline, I’m hoping [CDP] will get out of that lease before three years to be honest with you. Hopefully we’ll get it done in a couple years, but we do have three years to expend the grant money.” 

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