At last, a community center?

Published 11:29 am Tuesday, February 1, 2022

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Clemmons Village Council gives intent to be part of public-private partnership with the Shallow Ford Foundation in exploring options

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

Throughout the years, there’s been talk and a desire to have a community center in Clemmons, but nothing has ever come of it.

However, an idea was pitched in last week’s Clemmons Village Council meeting during a presentation by Sandi Scannelli, president and CEO of the Shallow Ford Foundation (formerly the Clemmons Community Foundation), leading to discussion and what Mayor Mike Rogers ultimately called hearing “unanimous intent and enthusiasm to proceed with looking for a future partnership and finding and building a community center.”

Scannelli was concluding her remarks when she commented “to capture the philanthropic investment potential and to fulfill the village vision of an unsurpassed quality of life requires a community center.”

She spoke of the vital roles that the Jerry Long Family YMCA and the Forsyth County Clemmons Branch Library play but added “a community center can help reinforce both of these important assets. Philanthropy often comes from a heart of gratitude, and we know Clemmons residents are incredibly grateful and generous. We’d like to help them focus that generosity on this community that they live in and love.”

“Let’s work together to create a community center that connects our community. We look forward to the opportunity for public-private partnership on this much-needed community asset.”

Council member Mike Combest said that he spoke with Scannelli before the meeting and that his understanding was that she would like a statement of intent of some sort.

He proceeded “to resolve that it is the intent of the village to develop a community center for the Village of Clemmons and that the council authorize the manager to direct the staff to coordinate directly with the foundation to begin the process for options relating to the development of a community center as discussed. I’d like to stress this does not imply support for or intent to select any specific location or building or venue or otherwise.”

In addition, Combest said that this is intended to add to the existing infrastructure and not compete with the Y or the library but “be a part of that support network of a type, location and size to be determined. That’s my proposed intent statement.”

Rogers then asked about council consensus regarding pursuing future options for a community center, and Combest agreed but added that the word “intent” was important to reinforce when the foundation goes to potential donors.

Council member Mary Cameron said she’d love to have a community center but she expressed concerns about getting deeply into this without knowing what’s coming in the future after nearly two years of a global pandemic.

“If these last two years have taught us anything, it’s that you can make all the plans you want to make, but…” she said. “If there’s no time limit on this, I’d feel much better about that. I don’t want to raise expectations unnecessarily and don’t want this to seem it is a top priority of ours because right now it can’t be. It can be an intent, and as long as that’s all we’re talking about, I’m all for it.”

Council member Michelle Barson said she was “100% with Combest. I have full intent, and I would say while there’s no timeline to get in, I think that the community would be 100% supportive and excited about this. I hope this builds excitement for donors and the community and am onboard in giving my intent to support you and your endeavors and be a good partner and steward when the right time comes on the right agreed upon project.”

Council member Chris Wrights added, “I’d like to see a community center in Clemmons. I question how realistic it is. It would be nice to have one if we can find a way to make it work.”

As a first-year member of the council, Bradley Taylor said he was “good with this concept of an intent because I do see the value add to the community, and I see value add to your efforts in this private-public partnership. I agree with councilwoman Cameron that I don’t think we need to make any intent of a binding type of agreement but exploring options of what this could be and what a timeline could look like and how that may evolve. I’m certainly committed to that intent.”

Taylor then asked Scannelli what she envisioned for the next steps in the process if the council provided the intent of considering this endeavor, which has long been part of the Clemmons Comprehensive Plan.

“I think that means putting together a committee to explore what the options are and to do that and not delay and put together a community that would be a public-private partnership, meaning there would be representatives from the village that would explore that. I think when you take action, I think the community is energized behind an idea.

“If there’s not unanimous enthusiasm, then that reluctance causes pause in community as well. I believe there are incredibly generous folks in Clemmons who may be willing to help make this happen because they care about this community deeply.”

Cameron said that while the village can “totally embrace the concept absolutely, it’s the money part that’s always the hiccup, but again I have no problem with intent.”

Following the comment from Rogers about hearing “unanimous intent and enthusiasm to proceed with looking for a future partnership and finding and building a community center,” Scannelli said she wanted to be clear: “We don’t want to own the community center, so that’s where it’s a public-private partnership.”

For more on a possible community center for Clemmons, see Jim Buice’s column on Page 2.