Galbreath Hall is looking at demolition.
West Jefferson Village Council took action Monday night to decide the fate of one of the village’s oldest buildings, which has been the center of a heated debate for the last six months.
Council passed a resolution authorizing Public Service Director Dave Metzger to seek bids for the demolition of Galbreath Hall. The building was deemed unsafe for public occupation in March of this year by an independent structural engineer.
Officials have estimated repair to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Council President Ron Garver said he grew up participating in athletic programs in the building, and later acted as a volunteer youth coach in the programs the building hosted. Garver addressed the situation before a vote was taken.
“The parks and recreation (committee) had a meeting and we discussed this,” Garver said. “We’ve been around and around on this. There is a building over there that I personally am very fond of, but we also have a building over there that can’t be used. I have talked with over 100 people since July 4 and almost all of them want to see the building torn down.”
“ … To put hundreds of thousands of dollars into that hall is not feasible,” he continued. “The building is costing us money and it can’t be used. I can’t see any other options right now.”
Garver, other council members, and Mayor Darlene Steele have been looking into building a new multi-function community center for the village. They are considering placing a levy on the May 2015 ballot to fund such a building.
Garver said officials are looking into having a center with two full gymnasiums, a fitness center, senior center, meeting room and indoor pool.
“We are currently looking at two pieces of land right now, so there is a lot going on behind the scenes,” he said.
Garver declined to elaborate on the two locations due to ongoing negotiations.
Galbreath Hall had been used by the West Jefferson Youth Athletic Association (WJYAA) to hold some of its events, as well as to store equipment before the building was declared unsafe. The group had been requesting the village repair the building or donate the building to their organization.
WJYAA president John Stanley and vice president Herman Stanley were present Monday night.
“I wasn’t at the (parks and recreation committee) meeting, but wasn’t it discussed to get estimates on repairs or donate the building to WJYAA?” Herman Stanley asked.
Committee member Ray Martin said those options were discussed, but the cost to bring the building up to current standards is too much.
Garver said village law director Ron Parsons advised, due to liabilities, the village could not donate the building to any group knowing its current condition.
The WJYAA has been collecting voter signatures for a ballot petition to force the village both repair Galbreath Hall and build a new building for the group to control. Both actions have been estimated to cost about $1.5 million dollars.
Each petition would need 10 percent of the signatures of the village’s registered voters — about 127 signatures — to be placed on the November election ballot, according to the Madison County Board of Elections. The filing deadline is Wednesday, Aug. 6.
John Stanley, WJYAA president, said the petitions would not be turned in, saying that the initiative was “dead.”
The resolution to allow bids to be taken for the demolition of the building was approved by all council members.
Metzger said that bid packets would be completed by Tuesday and may be obtained from the Public Service Department. All bids must be submitted by Aug. 27.
Kevin Dye covers the Village of West Jefferson for The Madison Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.