PILOT MOUNTAIN — The cooperative spirit between state, federal and local officials was celebrated at a dedication ceremony for new renovations to The Pilot Center in Pilot Mountain on Wednesday.
Pilot Mountain Mayor Dr. Earl Sheppard opened the dedication ceremony by characterizing the renovations, which added additional classroom space and an industrial training workshop, as a “nine year process.”
According to Pilot Mountain Town Manager Homer Dearmin,the new classroom has a collapsible wall that allows it to be divided or can be used as a reception space.
Dearmin reported the construction costs for the renovation amounted to $350,572. He said funding for construction costs as well as additional related costs included a total of $300,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission with $75,000 from the Golden LEAF Foundation and $260,000 from Surry Community College. The renovation will allow up to 390 additional students per semester at the facility and will allow additional classes.
Sheppard recognized representatives including the Surry County Board of Commissioners, the Surry Community College Board of Trustees, Mount Airy Commissioner Shirley Brinkley, Pilot Mountain town commissioners, Elkin Mayor Lestine Hutchens and Elkin Town Manager Lloyd Payne. He also recognized 23 years of service to the town by former commissioner Carolyn Boyles, who also attended the dedication.
“We were working with tremendous people on this project,” said Sheppard. “The effort by the commissioners, funders and Surry Community college has been wonderful.” He noted the Golden LEAF Community Assistance Program for the initial funding to begin the center.
North Carolina Trust Fund representative Pete Burgess said new and improved labels on products reminded him of the center.
“Sometimes when you see those labels you wonder just what is truly new and improved,” began Burgess. “We look around at this facility and see a place that is truly new and improved.” He told the group that the fund had initially contributed $35,000 toward the renovation project.
“The commitment shown here demonstrates how important agricultural training is to the commissioners. This has happened at a time when the General Assembly’s budget crisis has reduced commission funding. Even with these cuts we found a way to support this area. The Pilot Center will make a difference.”
Marvin Hutchison, of the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development praised the cooperative spirit.
“Everyone has truly been team players,” said Hutchison. “Everyone must have had good kindergarten teachers because they learned to play together well.”
Appalachian Regional Commission representative Libby Smith told the group the project was a good example to others.
“This program is used as an example of what is possible,” said Smith. “I tell people all the time to look to you as an example of innovative ways to support community and make things happen.”
County Commissioner Paul Johnson said planning for The Pilot Center started as early as 2009. He recalled how “a group of 60 people met in different locations” to decide on projects to qualify for some $2 million in Golden LEAF Foundation funding for Surry County.
“We decided that Pilot Mountain, Elkin, Surry Community College and Pilot Mountain Pride had to put aside our differences and make it happen,” said Johnson. “This facility has progressed rapidly. Taxpayers get emotional sometimes about grants and tax money spent. When it is spent for something to truly benefit the citizens of the county and we work together, it’s always good. We think our future in Surry County is going to be a little bit brighter.”
Architect Steve Shuster of Clearscapes, PA told the group the project was different than others he’d seen in his more than 30 years of experience.
“It (the project) is really unique,” said Shuster. “The cooperation and banding together just doesn’t happen any more widely. This kind of cooperation is remarkable. This place represents an investment in Surry County and Pilot Mountain not a hand out. The rich agricultural heritage of Surry County is really worth celebrating.”
He said he holds this project up as a model when he works across the state as how local governments and state agencies can work together with a variety of funding sources to accomplish good things.
Surry Community College Vice President of Corporate and Continuing Education Dr. George Sappenfield called the project “a community effort.”
“You think back to what was a sock factory now looks like,” said Sappenfield. “It’s so wonderful to see a completed project. Without the interest and passion you have, this truly would not have happened. We are thrilled and ready to roll.”
Sheppard presented project grant writer Helen Ruth Almond with a plaque honoring her efforts for the project.
“This center has been near and dear to my heart,” said Almond. “It’s a great project. I hold it up as a jewel in the crown of development projects in rural North Carolina.”
Clearscapes Architecture PA was the architectural firm for the project, and Garanco, Inc. was the general contractor for the project. Sheppard recognized Mezzy’s Pizzeria for supplying pizza for the dedication reception.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.