Order to vacate former Villa building drawsnon-profits to county commissioners meeting

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By Thomas Clapper

CCM Reporter

Director of Loaves & Fishes Gordon Warner and members of the Carroll County Ministerial Association visited Carroll County Commissioners Dec. 4 to seek answers regarding Loaves & Fishes and St. Vincent De Paul having to vacate the annex building. 

“I want to make it very clear that the commissioners have not wronged Loaves & Fishes or the Carroll County Ministerial Association any way nor do we expect that they want to get rid of us,” said Warner. “We are not adversarial, and we just want a peaceful discussion. I had several people offer to pack the room, but I declined because we are not adversarial.”

Warner then read a two-page letter written to the Carroll County Commissioners regarding the lease of space for the food pantry. 

Commissioner Chris Modranski said he sent a vacating letter certified mail and called Warner to let him know, which was confirmed by Warner. 

“We were told Feb. 1 is the date where they will begin work on asbestos abatement,” said Modranski. “At this point we do not know how much of the building will be renovated. We know at least the front part will go to our agencies the Job and Family Services and Board of Elections. Until the numbers come in from the architect, we are not sure what we can keep or not keep in the building.”

“Asbestos removal will be throughout the entire building,” said Commissioner Donald Leggett II, who oversees the project. “Also, the rest of the building is not up to state code at the moment.”

“The main thing is the building was purchased with a specific use in mind and that is to house government buildings,” said Commissioner Robert Wirkner. “The building was in decline and purchased for government use and government businesses.”

“With respect and as a friend, I don’t think the commissioners understand the scope of this situation,” said Warner. “I urge you to go slowly and carefully. I know this is new territory for you and a new experience.”

“There is a tremendous need in the community for Loaves & Fishes,” said Tim Dyck, reverend of the First Presbyterian Church of Carrollton. Dyck also mentioned the needs continue to rise and dinners at his church gets more attendance.”

“While we are here and the media is present, could you tell us what kind of space you would need, maybe someone has a space you could move to temporarily,” said Modranski. 

“I spoke with Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church Father Jonas Shell and we agreed that Loaves and Fishes and Saint Vincent de Paul should stay together,” said Warner. “We could probably operate in a smaller space, but the walk-in coolers will be missed and are desperately needed, I hope that if we find a new location that commissioners could donate the walk-in coolers if they remove them. We did purchase the compressor. According to my rough calculation, we may be able to make it work in a 1,200 to 1,500 square feet area. We are actively looking for a place.”

“I want to say that we cannot control how passionate people are about the project and we understand people will read the newspaper and form their own opinions,” said Modranski. “It is absolutely their right to do so.

I also understand the severity and the needs that Loaves & Fishes provides for the community. I don’t take it lightly. It makes sense to me that it would be beneficial to have Loaves & Fishes housed close to JFS.”

Modranski then explained they are in uncharted territory and first have to work out how much the renovations will be, the cost in the long run and if anyone would be able to come back to the building. The only thing he knows for certain is Feb. 1 is when the building has to be empty. 

“In any event there has to be a period of time during asbestos removal and renovations when nobody will be allowed in the building,” said Wirkner. “The timeline of events as I understand it is first comes the asbestos removal, second is HVAC, wiring, restrooms, getting things up to code, and third, renovations to tailor the building to the needs of those moving in the building. This is going to take approximately a year’s worth of time and the problem is those spaces will not be able to be occupied during that period.”

Commissioners were asked if Loaves & Fishes would find a new location, if the Commissioners will let them have the refrigerators and freezers. 

Modranski said that he would have to check with the Prosecutor, since he is assuming Loaves and Fishes doesn’t own the walk-in one.

Warner said that the original implication from the sisters was that Loaves & Fishes could do whatever they wanted with the items left in that part of the building. He reiterated Loaves and Fishes did buy and pay for a new compressor for the one freezer unit. 

“If the sisters provided a letter that those coolers belong to Loaves & Fishes, that is good enough for me,” said Modranski. Otherwise I will have to check with the prosecutor to see what the process is to get rid of unused equipment.”

Warner said it sounds like Loaves & Fishes is a low priority, but Wirkner said that is not accurate. 

“I can not turn the clock back to when we received the offer from the sisters, but honestly I would have never been interested and walked away from it all,” said Wirkner. “We didn’t want to see the building turn into a rat trap and corrode into permanent disrepair.”

“Today is my turn and I just would like to ask commissioners, what do you want me and Ministerial Association to tell people who come to them angry about this situation,” asked Reverend Chuck Wilson, pastor of the Carrollton Bible Chapel.

“Tell them that the Commissioners were looking for a building to purchase for their departments and they found the building and purchased it,” said Modranski. “In the beginning, the Commissioners had the intent to keep Loaves and Fishes intact. As soon as the Board received notification from the architect that the state will not allow the building to be occupied during renovation, I called Reverend Warner to give him as much notice as possible. He has confirmed this.”

Reverend Warner said it sounds like the blame could be placed on the state regulations. 

“I just think with a building that large you should be able to renovate a portion at a time while leaving some areas open,” said Warner. “But I understand the state won’t allow it and you run afoul of regulations that you have no control over that made it more complicated than it needed to be.”

“I agree with that,” said Modranski. “I thought so too, which is exactly why I said I would like to move Loaves & Fishes to the back of the building. We value the work and services of Loaves & Fishes and St. Vincent de Paul and we see the value in the county. We want it to continue, whether it is in our building or not, and I personally will do as much as I can to help.”

“Thank you very much for taking the time, I am certainly going to try put you guys in a good light,” said Warner. “It is a complicated thing, it is new territory and it has become more than you anticipated.”

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