Baby showers, family reunions, birthday parties and meetings with long guest lists can soon be accommodated in Hemby Bridge.
The town has spent about $70,000 to renovate the old Hemby Bridge Volunteer Fire Department on Secrest Shortcut Road, adding a tile floor, fresh paint, a dropped ceiling, new windows and an updated kitchen. It adds up to about 2,500 square feet for community events. It should be ready for rentals and events by early October.
“We've known there was a need for groups to meet, because, other than churches, there's not a lot of places for the community if they want to have a large gathering,” said Hemby Bridge Alderman John Miller.
The community can get its first look at the new building at an open house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
The community center idea came about when town leaders learned that the Hemby Bridge Volunteer Fire Department was building its new station on Mill Grove Road.
“We knew that (old) complex was going to be vacated, and at that time we didn't have a town hall or a place to have meetings or anything,” Miller said.
They were too late, however, as Union Power Cooperative already had bought the old fire station to use for a new substation. Miller and fellow alderman Ron Gregory attended a public meeting on the substation, and asked Union Power representatives if they'd consider working with Hemby Bridge's ideas for the property.
A Union Power design engineer said the company could shift plans for the site and asked town leaders if they'd like to lease the building.
“We said yes,” Miller said.
With approval from Union Power and Hemby Bridge aldermen, the lease was drawn up and renovations started.
The large doors that used to allow fire vehicles to come and go are now large windows. Bathrooms have been renovated, and the building has a new electrical system.
“It's going to be a top-notch facility that I hope that will be a showcase for the community,” Miller said.
Hemby Bridge, which will oversee rental of the center, is not taking reservations yet. But people already have called, inquiring.
The center will be available for not-for-profit gatherings, which excludes using it for parties at which goods are sold.