Folkmoot Center may get permanent home
While it is far from a done deal, the recent action taken by the Haywood County Board of Education to declare the former Hazelwood Elementary School as surplus property is an important first step in helping Folkmoot USA find a permanent home.
Before the property can be actually sold for the proposed amount of $1, the Haywood County Board of Commissioners will need to pass on the opportunity to assume the building ownership.
While selling the portion of the building used by Folkmoot for only $1 may seem like a bad deal for taxpayers, it’s necessary to consider the $450,000 estimated demolition fee the school would have to absorb to clear away a building it no longer needs or uses.
The Folkmoot Friendship Center, which is leased from the school system, has been housed in the school for more than a decade. The lease terms were favorable, but as with any lease, there’s hesitation to undertake major improvements without building ownership. And improvements are imperative. At last count, there were 21 leaks in the roof, large windows that zap heat out in the winter and let it in during the summer, auditorium seats are not usable and plaster on the walls that keeps falling off.
Getting the building into shape is projected to cost about $500,000. Given the choice of repurposing the building for a great community organization, or dealing with the asbestos in the building, which drives demolition costs through the roof, the first choice is the best one.
A capital campaign was spoken of during this summer’s Folkmoot events, and more public efforts will start early next year.
With rising travel costs and related festival expenses and ticket sales that only cover 30 to 40 percent of the nearly two-week long international festival, fundraising is an ever-present reality to keep the festival going. Acquiring and fixing up a permanent home will require an even greater commitment to raising funds.
Given the choices and the value that Folkmoot brings to Haywood County and the region, the decision to move forward should be an easy one — as well as one the community should enthusiastically support.