1000 x 90

Avery Board of Commissioners Hear Concerns from Citizens about Proposed Demolition of Old CARES Building and Construction of New Probation Complex on Same Site

By Tim Gardner

During its regular monthly meeting April 3, the Avery County Board of Commissioners received feedback from several citizens concerning the proposed demolition of the old Avery CARES Building and the construction of a new probation services complex on the same site.

All commissioners-Martha Hicks, chairwoman; Tim Phillips, vice-chairman; Robert Burleson; Dennis Aldridge; and Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.- attended the meeting.

During the public comment segment, several citizens expressed opposition to demolishing the building in Newland, stating the need to retain it, and also not having a new probation complex on the site.

Town of Newland resident Frances Banner was one of approximately fifteen citizens who attended the meeting in support of renovating and restoring the building and having a probation services complex located elsewhere.

Banner offered High Country Press the following statement:This building (Old Avery Cares) which was built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration, which was an American New Deal agency that employed millions of jobseekers-mostly men who were not formally educated- to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, set up on May 6, 1935, by United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) has served many purposes. There are very few of these rock buildings built which remain in Avery County.  We need to preserve our history.  We do not want to be a county where new is always better or one who destroys our history.  It is just like our statues, which have been destroyed.  Once they are gone, they are gone.

“Although (The Town of) Newland is not zoned, the area where this building is located is in a housing area.  Probation and Parole (services) need to be close to the court house and jail, not heading out of Newland and certainly not close to homes.  I frankly think putting the Probation and Parole (office) close to these peoples’ homes will reduce their property values.  The building has served many purposes, such as:  First Library for Avery County; a Community Center; Garden Club for Women, Sock Hops, a teen club with live bands and singers, proms, WAMY, veterans groups meetings, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings, NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings, dance lessons (gatherings), boy scouts (meetings), a thrift store for Yellow Mountain Mental Health and even a marriage ceremony was held in the building. 

“It is not only a historic structure… it is very valuable and sentimental to a lot of Avery County citizens.  Our group hopes to reach out about possibly securing some grants to help the county to endeavor saving this historical structure.  Two people familiar with restoring old structures told the commissioners the building could certainly be saved and renovated for future use.  We just hope we will be afforded ample time and an opportunity to come up with a solution to save this historic building.”

Some in opposition to the building being demolished said that they may also seek getting it put in the National Register of Historic Places in order to prevent it being torn down or demolished.

Hicks said that State of North Carolina insurance officials “have declared that either the County of Avery needs to completely repair the building or demolish it due to it having potentially harmful substances such as black mold and exposed asbestos as well as numerous other physical defects, including a leaking fireplace, decaying floors and steps.”  She added that tearing down or demolishing the building would also “cost much less for the citizens of the county than trying to dispose of the mold and fix any places where asbestos is exposed, its other physical defects and then completely renovate it.”

She added that the commissioners will further discuss repairing or demolishing the building, but that if a new complex to house the probation services is built, it should be on the same site.

The County of Avery is already seeking qualified contractors to bid on the new modular probation office project.  Construction on the probation office project is expected to begin in the summer of 2023.