Signal Mountain green-lights initial repairs for historic Mountain Arts Community Center

The Signal Mountain Town Council voted March 13 to start initial repairs to the front portion of Mountain Arts Community Center. The MACC's programs are housed in the Signal Mountain Elementary/Grammar School, the town's oldest remaining publicly owned building. (Contributed photo)
The Signal Mountain Town Council voted March 13 to start initial repairs to the front portion of Mountain Arts Community Center. The MACC's programs are housed in the Signal Mountain Elementary/Grammar School, the town's oldest remaining publicly owned building. (Contributed photo)

MACC REPAIRS

- Sprinkler and alarm installation per revised contract- Mold remediation in auditorium-Associated professional servicesStructural/Water Issues – Building A- Install 25-mil EPDM vapor barrier- Repair east wall of auditorium- Restructure floor under existing office- Restructure floor under building perimeter- Floor jacking as needed- Rebuild floor at auditorium- Replace X-bracing- Install sump pump systemSite Drainage Issues – North Side- Demo concrete/clean rock- Install in-ground gutter- Patch wall below grade- Spray applied waterproofing- Repair gravel and concrete sidewalkStorm Water Issues – Courtyard- Investigate/camera existing pipe- Bore for storm pipe- Install storm pipe/manhole- Cut and patch asphaltSource: Town of Signal Mountain

Applause erupted during the March 13 Signal Mountain Town Council meeting after council members unanimously voted to make initial repairs to the Mountain Arts Community Center.

After hearing from about a dozen residents advocating for the building, the council approved a resolution authorizing Town Manager Boyd Veal to spend up to $300,000 on initial repairs to the original portion of the facility, built in 1926, plus other areas on the same level, including Room #5, hallways or other accessory space.

The $300,000 includes the cost to repair and rebuild certain walls and floors in the original building, among other structural issues. It also includes the cost for mold remediation in the auditorium and installation of a new sprinkler and alarm system throughout. Stormwater and site drainage issues will also be addressed.

The resolution does not include the installation of an HVAC system, which would help prevent the growth of mold. Veal said in a post-meeting interview that the council is looking for other ways to dehumidify that space.

Vice Mayor Dick Gee stressed that the $300,000 is not a complete solution, but it is a beginning. The cost to fully renovate the 1926 portion, labeled Building A, was estimated by local construction firm Hefferlin + Kronenberg at $1.2 million.

"We are dealing with an old building, and we know it has substantial deficiencies. So don't think that $300,000 is a done deal," Gee said. "We're going to have to address other issues in the future."

But repairing the MACC's other issues will be in competition with the town's other financial needs coming down the pipeline, such as the construction of a new fire station and the loss of the Hall tax.

Mayor Chris Howley has, in previous meetings, expressed his disapproval of dedicating significant funds for the MACC while there are still so many questions still left to answer. He said he feared the council would make the same mistake as council members before it: invest thousands for a fix, only to invest more the following year when the next problem arose.

"I want to preserve the front of that building because I think we can do some special things with the front of that building," Howley said during the March meeting, "but I want to make sure financially that we can take care of ourselves and we don't become a burden on the taxpayers in the town."

Officials said the $300,000 is not a commitment to restoring sections B and C of the building, which would cost a combined total of $1.5 million.

Still, residents who support the MACC were pleased with the council's decision.

"I believe we owe it to the arts people on the mountain to do this for them," said Dun Monroe, who spoke at the meeting.

Some argued that abandoning the MACC, the "front door of this community," would hurt property taxes by inciting "broken window syndrome."

Councilman Dan Landrum said he was impressed by how passionate residents were about the building and how they were getting involved to save it, and Councilwoman Amy Speek praised residents for bringing solutions to the table instead of just concerns.

MACC advocates who spoke at the meeting suggested ideas to secure funding for the other repairs needed, such as starting a GoFundMe page to raise money, holding fundraisers and applying for grants, among others.

Howley also asked the council to consider returning the MACC to the structure it previously had before it was town-owned, when a nonprofit oversaw it.

"Then you put it in the hands of the people who really care for developing those programs," Howley said. "When you put it in private hands like that, I just think the growth is going to be better than having a government run it."

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