The Town of Summerfield has grown a lot in recent years and now the town’s leaders are discussing a new project – finding a new town hall.
There’s a lot of disagreement as to how the town should go about that. Town officials are looking at renovating an old building or constructing a new town hall – but, however it’s done, more and more there’s agreement among Summerfield’s leaders that the town needs a new place to conduct meetings and house town staff, given the limitations of the existing Summerfield Town Hall.
Summerfield Town Councilmember John O’Day said that, since Summerfield doesn’t currently have a permanent space for Town Council meetings, staff has to go to a lot of trouble to prepare for every meeting. They have to open up a community center conference room, set out folding chairs, set up tables and equipment and perform other tasks. Then, once the meeting is over, staff has to put things back the way they were.
“A lot of staff time is involved in that,” O’Day said of using the community center for meetings rather than using a permanent space that the town owns. “We’d like to put some additional technology in there, but we don’t own the building.”
O’Day also pointed out that two other small towns in northwest Guilford County have attractive town halls with good meeting spaces.
“Stokesdale has a nice town hall,” O’Day said. “Oak Ridge has a nice town hall – and we have a community center that, in my opinion, is ill-fitted for Town Council meetings.
Summerfield does currently have a town hall that staff works out of – an old building that, nearly two decades ago, was converted into office space for the town manager and other staff. However, many in the town say the space is too cramped and the lack of adequate meeting space in that building is a huge drawback.
O’Day said he’s not sure at this point how large of a meeting room Summerfield should have in a new town hall, but he suggested a room that held perhaps 100 people might function well nearly all of the time. He said the town could always move a meeting to a church or somewhere else if it promised to be very well attended for some reason.
Summerfield Mayor Gail Dunham said that she agrees the issues need to be addressed but she said that some of the ideas that staff has brought the council so far have been way too costly. Dunham said she wants to make sure that whatever solution is found is very affordable.
Summerfield Town Councilmember Dena Barnes said that, for her, one of the key reasons to get something new is due to the meeting space issue. She said the current town hall just isn’t suited for a meeting of any size. It can house a small meeting but that’s about it.
“There is some limited meeting space downstairs,” Barnes said of the current town hall.
Barnes added that the current town hall was remodeled for that purpose in 2001 and the town’s citizens helped decorate it and fix it up.
Barnes said that she had a quilt that was on display at town hall and, when she was mayor, some school kids came through on a tour. She said she got a kick out of the fact that one student, in the report on the trip, wrote: “The mayor lives at the town hall.”
Barnes said one option of remodeling a building already owned by the town would cost about $4 million.
“I said, ‘I don’t think so,” Barnes said.
“Building a new building would probably be less expensive,” she added.