By Holly Crocco
The Kent Town Board recently approved spending up to $7,000 on an asbestos inspection at the Lake Carmel Community Center, as a “first step” toward deciding whether to rehabilitate the building or tear it down.
“We’ve been kicking around what to do with the Lake Carmel Community Center for some time now,” said Councilman Christopher Ruthven at the Feb. 7 town board meeting. In addition to the presence of asbestos, he said the building contains black mold from flood damage and poor wiring, as well as other dangers.
“We are prepared to start taking steps to remediate the environmental issues that are inside the building, and then we have to make the tough decision of whether that building is worth saving for the amount of money we have to put into it, or if we should look at replacing it with a new, more modern structure,” he said.
Pat Ravert, chairperson of the Lake Carmel Community Center’s board of directors, said the board has been waiting to hear from the town about the costs associated with either option.
“This is a facility that was bought, is run by the Town of Kent for the benefit of the residents of the park district, and I think it’s something that we really do need to know what park district residents want,” she said. “We need everyone to remember that the building does belong to the residents of the park district, and not the town. And if we do take it down, we need to replace it.”
Ravert said that if the building is torn down, she would like to see something with a similar footprint erected, while keeping the neighboring residences in mind. “That’s something we’ve been very cautious about, when we do have events there, that we remember we are in the middle of a neighborhood,” she said.
The building first started to fall into disrepair back in 2018 after a tornado swept through the area, downing trees and causing structural damage and flooding. In addition, Ravert said one of the walls is sinking, another wall was removed after invasive beetles were discovered inside it and there is mold over the garage, among other issues.
“It’s a big job,” she said.
Ruthven noted that the town received a small settlement from the insurance company after the 2018 tornado to address water damage.
“It’s not a substantial amount ,but it is something,” he said. “We also have a budget specifically of Lake Carmel money just earmarked for the Lake Carmel Community Center that can’t be used for any other projects… So there is some funding already available, but we know that it’s probably going tot be a higher price tag than that.”
Ruthven also said that if the old building is torn down, the town will save historic parts of it, such as artifacts from the Jewish school that are located inside, as well as the stained-glass window created by a local resident.
“If we end up with a new building, it needs to show parts of the old building in it as the history of it,” he said.
Ruthven said that regardless of what direction the town goes with the building, the asbestos – inside and outside – needs to be remediated, first.
“We are going to deal with the asbestos either way, right now,” he said. “We’ve got environmental issues, we’ve got constructional issues that we know of… In my opinion, I don’t see remediation being the economical choice here, but we have to see these numbers.”
Resident and former town supervisor Kathy Doherty said she’d like to see the building taken down and replaced.
“I’d like to see a building there that’s ADA-complaint and one floor, so that everybody can use it. It was income for Lake Carmel residents because we did rent it outside the area for people that wanted to use it for parties.”
Resident Bob Eulick suggested the town send out a survey to park district residents to see which direction they want to go in.
“I think it’s been expressed here tonight that, unfortunately, there is a line right down the middle,” he said. “We’d like to keep it because it is a beautiful building, it has a lot of memories. But, as Councilman Ruthven said, it is a building, it can be taken down, it can potentially probably be made even better.”
Supervisor Jaime McGlasson said she has heard from residents who neighbor the property, saying they want it taken down.
“I get calls in my office all the time from people that live around the center, asking me when I’m going to tear it down because they are sick of looking at it and they want to put a new building up there,” she said. “They call probably every other week.”
If a new building is erected, McGlasson said the town can absolutely preserve some of old building’s history. “We can save aspects of it,” she said. “We can save the stained glass – we can save things. It will never be gone completely.”