Town Asks Johnston County For Financial Assistance
A former school auditorium that had been used as a community center needs to be torn down and replaced, according to Kenly town leaders.
Kenly Town Manager Michael Douglas wants Johnston County Commissioners to assist the Town of Kenly with the costs of demolishing the former Kenly Community Center and the removal and disposal of asbestos.
History of site
Kenly High School was built in 1914. In 1965 the last class graduated from Kenly High. That same year North Johnston High was opened. The former Kenly High was transitioned into Kenly Elementary and in 1986 it became Glendale-Kenly Elementary.
However, on September 6, 1994 at 2:40pm, 10 minutes before classes were to be dismissed for the day, a custodian reported smoke in the main building. Principal Bill Gilbert ordered everyone to evacuate. 480 students and 30 school employees made it out unharmed but the fast moving fire damaged the main school building beyond repair. Officials blamed electrical wiring in the third floor ceiling as the cause. The school had been renovated in 1991 at a cost of $750,000, money raised by the Glendale-Kenly Elementary PTA. The upgrades included new wiring.
In October 1997, the campus – minus the fire damaged main school building which was torn down – was donated to the Town of Kenly. The Town turned the school auditorium into a Community Center.
No longer used
Douglas said the Community Center hasn’t been used in years and is no longer usable. He said the abandoned center is frequently used by the homeless, vagrants, and drug users. He described the building as unsafe and dangerous due to asbestos and hypodermic needles randomly discarded inside by drug users. “We want to get rid of the blight and put up something residents in the Town of Kenly can use.”
On May 6th, Douglas appeared before County Commissioners asking for assistance to cover some of the $272,000 it will cost to remove the civic center building. Douglas said the asbestos removal will cost $120,000 and the demolition $152,000. He asked commissioners to consider giving up to $100,000 towards the costs.
New Community Center To Cost $1.5M – $2M
The Kenly Town Council is already looking at three new civic center building design options, each ranging from $1.5 million to $2 million. The costs will be repaid through a 30 year USDA loan. Douglas envisions the new civic center having a kitchen and other space that can be rented to citizens for weddings and other events. He also wants it completed as soon as possible.
Douglas hopes the old community center can be torn down by September 2019. “Because of the blight it needs to be removed as soon as possible,” he told county leaders. Douglas envisions construction of the new Kenly Civic Center starting in 2020.
Commissioner Tony Braswell told Douglas the timing of his request was good. Commissioners are currently putting together their 2019-2020 fiscal year budget. Braswell said it was something the board would consider.
Braswell also encouraged Douglas to reach out to the Johnston County Visitors Bureau to see if they had any funding or grants the Town of Kenly could receive.