Clemmons starts looking into community center

Published 10:14 am Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

Shannon Ford, director of marketing and communications for the Village of Clemmons, has started an initial exploration on gathering information for a community center and admitted what she found “was really exciting and somewhat surprising.

“We kind of think we know what our municipality has until you get out there and dig a little bit deeper and get behind the scenes to see what people are offering.”

Ford gave a report in Monday night’s Village Council meeting on her findings after meeting with representatives of the new Clemmons Branch Library, Jerry Long Family YMCA and Historic Broyhill Center, along with learning more about the Ryan Wood Memorial Amphitheater and private businesses/artists in the village.

The idea of having a community center has been a dream for many in Clemmons for years and was introduced again in a meeting in January with a presentation from the Shallow Ford Foundation (formerly the Clemmons Community Foundation) about looking into the possibility of finding and building such a facility.

Part of the Clemmons Comprehensive Plan includes a goal of having a vibrant community center with the following statement: “Clemmons and partners will develop a vibrant public gathering place to serve as a focal point of the community to support a sense of place that is walkable, accessible and available for events and community programming.

The first step for Ford was learning what community partners, such as the library and Y, currently offer residents.

“I wanted to touch on the library because that’s the newest addition to the municipality and with the amount of things that the library has to offer, it’s almost a shame that they opened during COVID, and people don’t realize the wealth of what that building is going to have to offer,” she said, adding the library has state-of-the-art meeting space that is available for free.

In her initial findings, Ford pointed out that there are a surplus of programs and resources and that community partners have much to offer, although there are some limitations on marketing and promoting these activities. However, she said that the village could fill that gap by doing some type of marketing campaign.

Ford added that the one thing that kept coming up in her conversations was an outdoor theme.

“I think a lot of that can be accredited to COVID,” she said. “It just changed the way people want to do things, and when they think of large gathering spaces, most of the time now they are looking for more things outdoors.

“They want an amphitheater, picnic shelters, some outdoor recreation, like all-inclusive playgrounds, some outdoor basketball courts, covered pickleball courts. That was kind of the repetitive thing that I kept hearing when I said, ‘what can’t you offer that maybe people would like to have?’ ”

As for next steps, Ford said she would continue to meet with other community partners and would propose a budget line item for community programming for the next fiscal year. In addition, she suggested appointing the mayor and/or a council member to continue exploring partnership and staff roles with the Shallow Ford Foundation.

Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Barson added, “I think there probably needs to more than just Shannon, a task force that’s a joint venture between the two organizations to see if this thing has legs and continue to explore pieces of it together.”

The council was unanimous in its praise for Ford’s efforts in getting a start with the process.

“This is world-class work,” council member Mike Combest said, “and our residents and our businesses are going to be very grateful for the path you put us on. It’s just terrific.”

Council member Chris Wrights said, “I know from my meeting with the Shallow Ford Foundation, a lot of things they were looking for in a community center, what they’re looking for is already out there, it’s just being underutilized. So it’s finding a way to get that marketing out there so they know those facilities are out there and available.”

It was also mentioned that Tanglewood, the county’s largest park which is considered to be part of the Clemmons community, offers lots of the desired opportunities, but there is a $2 admission charge to enter the park.

Other council members added that after all the information is gathered it would be beneficial to put out a questionnaire and have some kind of town hall, community meetings or focus groups.

“A community center doesn’t just necessarily have to be about a building,” said council member Bradley Taylor. “It can be about information and access and sharing that information.”

In business items on the agenda, the council approved EB-6040, the Harper Road sidewalk project north of Fair Oaks Drive to Morgan Elementary School with a total estimated cost of $664,000, including 80% in federal funds ($531,200) and a 20% local match ($132,800).

The council also approved the cancellation of federal funds from U-4741PE funds (U.S. 158 sidewalk project) with total funding of $2,638,000 to be reallocated to EB-6040 and EB-5940, the other Harper Road sidewalk project from Morgan Elementary to the Jerry Long Y.

The village requested that 35% of the federal funds to be transferred to EB-6040 and 65% to be transferred to EB-5940. Clemmons will pay the 20% match for both projects and also repay the expended STBG-DA (Surface Transportation Block Grant Program that allows for flexible funding for projects) amount of $181,121 incurred under U-4741PE.

The old total for EB-6040 was $664,000, and the new total is $1,402,640, with a new match of $280,528. The old total for EB-5960 was $1,251,250, and the new total is $2,623,010, with a new match of $524,602.

“We’re taking the opportunity to go to the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) and taking these funds and put them to the projects to have more construction dollars,” Village Manager Mike Gunnell said. “Our original estimates were done four or five years ago and are substantially low to where they’re going to need to be for what the prices are going to be when we put them out for bid.”

In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the council:

• Heard that a budget workshop will be held on Monday, April 25, at 4 p.m. prior to that night’s Village Council meeting at 6 p.m.

• Approved an amendment to the contract with Yadkin Valley Paving to hold the village’s current prices for the town’s paving list to allow more streets to get paved.

• Heard from Gunnell that a preemptive device would be added at Allegacy Way in an agreement between the Village and the Clemmons Fire Department through NCDOT.

• Received a quarterly stormwater report from Emily Harrison, stormwater technician II, who reported there were 40 projects from January through March. She added that 15.8 tons of debris were swept up in commercial corridors and 6.5 tons of debris were swept up on residential streets.

• Heard a discussion on the off-premise sign moratorium with continuing dialogue coming in an upcoming meeting.

• Approved Ordinance 2022-02 amending Title III of the Code of Ordinances to clarify the roles of the mayor and manager.

• Approved Ordinance 2022-03 amending portions of the Code of Ordinances to decriminalize certain violations.