Local News

June 11, 2014

Repairs at Emery Center mandatory in order to meet compliance, remain open

If the Emery Center is to remain open at its current location, the sprinkler system and fire alarm must be brought into compliance with state codes by Aug. 1, 2015, center and city of Dalton officials recently agreed.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units must also be replaced and put on a structurally sound roof by that date, according to the agreement. Only the flat part of the center’s roof will have to be repaired, not the portion with shingles.

“The other things, outside and all that, we can do later,” said Curtis Rivers, the center’s director. “We’ll run some estimates and see what people will charge to do those things and go from there.”

The center, a nonprofit multicultural heritage center, is housed in the Emery Street School building that opened in 1924. The school served as the only black school in the community until desegregation. The building is owned by the city, and a 20-year lease agreement between the city and the center states that repairs must be made by the center.

Though officials originally thought the repairs would cost approximately $80,000, a newer estimate from an architect quoted $455,000.

Ideas other than repairs have been discussed, including possibly moving the Emery Center’s memorabilia and displays to Dalton High School, but no one associated with the center wants to see that happen. They remain focused on the effort to save the former school building.

The way to do that, Rivers says, is to approach the much-needed repairs in stages.

The first step is addressing concerns listed as the top three priorities by the county building inspector’s office and the city’s fire marshal — the sprinklers, the fire alarm system and HVAC/roof repairs.

“Everyone agreed to these terms,” said Ty Ross, city of Dalton administrator. “They (Emery Center officials) didn’t want to feel rushed or hurried and wanted to use it in their ongoing fundraising campaign. We provided them with a very reasonable time frame to work with. Hopefully they will make other improvements before this date.”

Ross said since the center’s officials made it clear they intend to stay in the current building, city officials had to “pin down ... this is what you have to do to stay in the building.”

Ross said it is in “everybody’s interest” that the work is started soon. The center operates as a museum, and hosts families and schoolchildren on field trips.

Rivers did not know when the work will begin because center officials are still collecting estimates.

The center continues to raise funds for not just the immediate repairs, but those needing to be made long term, such as new paneling, repairing steps, repairing deteriorating bricks and plumping repairs. Other repairs will also have to be made to make the building more accessible, such as installing a lift.

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