By Tia Lynn Ivey
The Clothes Closet, a charity that has provided families with free clothes and household items for over 35 years, may be forced out of its current location before long.
The group’s current building, owned by the county, is in need of a brand new roof. County officials announced at a board meeting Tuesday evening that the lowest bid to replace the roof came in at a whopping $81,932.06
“As great of a service as the Clothes Closet is, i don’t think the county can invest any taxpayer funded dollars…to anything that is not a county service,” said County Manager Adam Mestres.
“It’s a significant investment into the building and the building is probably not worth even close to that. It’s probably not an investment the county should make.”
But time is running out to find a solution. The roof is a structural hazard from water damage, according to County Planning Director Chuck Jarrell.
Mestres suggested seeking help from the church community to help put up a new building at the current site. Commissioner Ben Riden and Commissioner Andy Ainslie said they have spoken to some church groups that would be willing to pitch in labor and some funding, but the county is unsure if it’s enough.
The county wants to work in conjunction with the City of Madison, and possibly Morgan Medical Center to find a solution.
Bernice Davis, 91, founded the Clothes Closet over 35 years ago and still volunteers every week, along with other long-time volunteers Dottie Kurtz, Lena Cole, Julia Osaby, and Pat Nesbitt. Clothes Closet members are reluctant to move because of the central location downtown that makes their service accessible to low-income people with limited transportation. More than a dozen people attended Tuesday’s meeting to plead with commissioners to find a solution. Some accused county officials of neglecting the building, leading to the the needed roof replacement. Commissioners maintained they have done all they can do for the building.
“It’s a great service, but we don’t collect rent on that building and it’s not generating a revenue stream so we cannot use taxpayer money to make repairs on it,” explained Commissioner Riden.
“As of now, I don’t see a prudent solution,” said Mestres. “We don’t have a funding stream available. It;’s not something the county can spend taxpayer funded dollars on…I think we need to continue to explore with the volunteers and leaders of the Clothes Closet.”
“We will keep trying to find a solution for this one,” said Chairman Philipp Von Hanstein.