Mount Airy puts plans for youth center aside for now

Lack of public interest noted by Town Council

April 07, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Lacking public support, Mount Airy's plans for a community center will be put on hold -- for now.

During a closed session Monday night, the Town Council agreed that before pursuing the project it would need to see more public commitment for a building to house after-school programs and youth activities.

Town officials said a public hearing on the proposal last month generated little interest among residents. About seven residents attended, they said.

"We got very little response. I was disappointed," said Mayor Gerald R. Johnson.

Johnson had organized the March hearing in response to letters and phone calls from residents asking for more activities for youth.

"Is it apathy? I don't know. But when you lay out $400,000, $500,000 or $600,000, you want something in return for that investment. Right now, the return would not be there," he said.

Council members had considered converting the soon-to-be-vacated Van Sant Plumbing and Heating Inc.'s North Main Street headquarters or the recently closed Firehouse Bar and Grill on South Main into a community center.

"We're not going to buy anything at this time. I think it's the best decision," said Council President R. Delaine Hobbs.

Hobbs objected to buying an existing building for a community center because it would be too difficult and costly to renovate.

"I think it would be cheaper to build a new building," Hobbs said.

Johnson said the parking lots at either site would not be large enough.

Though the community center failed to win council support, Johnson said town officials agreed that it would be good idea someday.

With about 75 percent of the working population leaving town each day, there will always be a need for activities for "latchkey" children, Johnson said.

Johnson said he hoped some of the need would be met by several church recreation facilities under construction or already in existence. A planned community swimming pool will also provide activities, he said.

"If down the road we see that there is a need over and above that, we'll be revisiting this issue," Johnson said.

Pub Date: 4/07/99

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