Opinion

June 17, 2014

Repairs at Emery Center need to start now

The two parties that hold the fate of the Emery Center in the balance, the city of Dalton and the Emery Center’s board of directors, are in agreement. To keep the center open, repairs and improvements have to be done. Add to that, they need to be done soon.

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. It then was used as a junior high and later an elementary school, serving Dalton Public Schools.

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.

Officials realize that the work will need to be done in stages as money becomes available through fundraisers and donations. Early estimates said repairs would cost approximately $80,000. However, a newer estimate from an architect quoted $455,000.

So far the center has raised about $100,000.

Fortunately, both the city and the center agree on what needs to be done first. If the Emery Center is to remain open at its current location, the sprinkler system and fire alarms must be brought into compliance with state codes by Aug. 1, 2015. Also, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units must also be replaced and a sound roof installed by that date.

Both sides agree to these terms, as they should. City officials have been very patient with center officials in not rushing improvements and allowing the center officials to do their fundraising.

But a deadline needed to be set. Now, center officials need to finish collecting estimates and start the repairs on the high-priority items.

The future of the Emery Center may depend on what can be done between now and August of next year.

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Want to help?

There will be a “Praise in the Park” fundraiser at the Mack Gaston Community Center in Dalton on Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. The event is free. All proceeds will benefit the Emery Center’s repair fund.

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