‘A great day in Dobbins Heights’

People, Town of Dobbins Heights celebrate groundbreaking for new community center

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

DOBBINS HEIGHTS — The people of Dobbins Heights, celebrating the town’s 30th year of existence in 2014, seemed one big proud papa Thursday afternoon at the groundbreaking of the planned community center on Earle Franklin Drive.

Town Clerk Mary W. Magee, Mayor Pro Tem Gracie C. Jackson, Mayor Antonio Blue and other key movers and shakers of helping the town and its people live up to the motto of “moving on” celebrated with residents and building contractors, including architects, designers and builders, on an overcast but pleasant day.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Golden shovels are used to conduct the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Dobbins Heights Community Center Thursday afternoon in Dobbins Heights.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Golden shovels are used to conduct the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Dobbins Heights Community Center Thursday afternoon in Dobbins Heights.

“This is a great day in Dobbins Heights,” said Magee before an audience of nearly four dozen people and dignitaries, including Assistant Secretary of State Robert Wilson, State Sen. Gene McLaurin, Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr., County Commissioner Don Bryant and many others. “In 2007, Mayor Blue came and told us about his vision. He never gave up on his vision. There were times I thought it would not happen.”

The $500,000 project is fully funded by a federal Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Stroud Pence and Associates managed the structural engineer while Stanford White handling mechanical, electric and plumbing issues. Site Solutions handled civil engineering.

The Wooten Company, of Raleigh, assisted on the project while Kristen Hess of HH Architecture, Raleigh, designed the project and Hawks Builders, of Rockingham, was awarded the construction contract. Pat Crissman, of The Wooten Company, is serving as grant administrator on the project.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Nearly four dozen people attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Dobbins Heights Community Center.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Nearly four dozen people attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Dobbins Heights Community Center.

Hess said the 4,000-square-foot building will consist of two small multipurpose rooms, a larger multipurpose room and a warming kitchen with a serving window. The building has an expandable wall for future expansion, Blue noted. Hess said the building also will have an office for staff and a covered entrance to allow for dry, safe drop-offs and pick-ups despite inclement weather.

Blue said the center will have offer Wi-Fi for Internet users, plus have large screen television sets.

Hess said the project should be completed by the end of the year. Blue, however, suggested the building could be ready for occupancy sometime in September. A Hawks Builders representative said construction won’t start until the permitting process with Richmond County government is completed.

Still, the focus of Thursday’s celebration was on what was and what can be — with more than a few people care about the town in which they live and get to work.

 

“This is one thing we feel that we are ready for,” said Jackson, a 30-year member of the Town Council. “I can’t help but think about the old times that have gone by.”

On the town’s original Town Council, Jackson recalled when the streets weren’t paved, town residents didn’t have access to county water — they had to alternate laundry days due to small sewer lines — and streets were without lights.

“I recall when it was all dark,” Jackson said. “Just see what low-income people can do to make a living” and a life.

Jackson observed that residents and visitors now can enjoy a meal at the covered pavilion located at the adjacent community park, go for a swim in the town pool or play basketball, among other activities.

Crissman, of The Wooten Company, encouraged everyone to look around to see “what this very proud black community has achieved.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Crissman said she’s worked with town officials for about 18 years and assisted with sewer upgrades and housing rehabilitation projects.

“We’re just thrilled” to be a part of the project, she said, and continue to see the town move forward.

Dennis Quick, executive director of operations for Richmond County Schools and a longtime Dobbins Heights resident, also spoke.

“I know this community very well,” said Quick, who spoke of residents coming together for the common good.

“Unfortunately, most big ideas don’t get realized,” he said. “They stop at the dream stage. That’s not the case today.”

Blue acknowledged it was a team effort within town staff and elected officials but despite “bumps and bruises” with engineers and designers, stood by his original vision for the property, which was donated to the town.

Blue said he wanted “what was best for the town.”

Early on, he told council members, “if we clean this lot off and prepare it, it will come.”

“This is something that you can be proud of,” Blue said. “This is one of the greatest days in my life.”

Blue spoke of his 6-year-old daughter, Zoe. He said he’s scarified a lot to show her and others that community means quite a bit to her father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

“I want her to know … that it stands for something.”

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Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

 

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