By Alyssa Schnugg
Speaking on behalf of the seven-member board that manages the Gordon Community and Cultural Center in Abbeville, Janice Carr asked the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors Monday for their help to renovate the old Head Start building located next to the center to be used as an adult vo-tech center.
Carr asked the board to consider replacing the roof and removing the asbestos in the building that was built in the 1960s.
The two buildings, located at 35 County Road 115, were once schools for the black children of Lafayette County before integration was mandated. In 2007, Carr and several others started working on renovating the former Abbeville School that now houses several community events including the Summer Enrichment Camp. The funds were raised through fundraisers, private donations and in-kind donations by local contractors and businesses.
Carr said while it might seem easier and less expensive to just simply tear down and demolish the old buildings, she said the former schools are part of Lafayette County’s history that shouldn’t be dismissed.
“We were loved and appreciated in these buildings,” she said. “People there cared about the children. They weren’t being called names. They didn’t have people jumping back to avoid touching them. These buildings mean a lot to us.”
Carr said the goal is to create a vo-tech training center for adults, focusing on the construction trades and using local contractors to teach their trades to others.
“We want to teach everything one needs to know to build a house,” she said.
The classes would begin with carpentry and then plumbing, electrical and other trades would eventually be added.
Marty Fino with the Lafayette County Interracial Collaborative Group told the supervisors the Gordon Community and Cultural Center Board of Directors would work with the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation to help get the school started.
“Our intent is to bring some of those individuals who are unemployed into the workforce with skills that will pay a decent wage,” he said. “Twenty-five percent of Lafayette County’s population falls below the poverty level. Many of them are working but they are the working poor. There’s a significant need to provide adult vocational training.”
District 3 Supervisor David Rikard said he’s concerned that if the county does replace the roof and remove the asbestos, which could cost more than $100,000, the remaining renovations needed would be too costly for the Gordon Center board of directors to raise.
Carr said the renovations would be “substantial.”
“It was for the Gordon Center too, but we did it,” she said.
If the building was demolished, the county would still have to pay to have the asbestos removed.
The Board of Supervisors asked Carr to provide estimates on the renovations and suggested Building Official Joel Hollowell examine the building before the Board considers Carr’s request.