Vets hope to lobby for veterans hall funding

A group of concerned citizens plan to head to Eureka next week for a Humboldt County budget hearing during which they hope to voice their support of funding efforts to rebuild the Garberville Veterans Hall.

The hall, which not only provided the Garberville Veterans of Foreign Wars post a place for monthly meetings but also housed a small court facility and provided space for community events, closed May 23, 2016, because of potentially toxic black mold growing throughout the building.

“I’m planning on it and we’re trying to get a few people to come up, too,” Garberville VFW Commander Hank Toborg said.

Shelter Cove resident and Garberville VFW member Donald Swan said the meetings are June 19 at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chamber in the Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka.

“It’s a budget hearing and [Humboldt County District 2 Supervisor] Estelle [Fennell} said that would be good to go to to support the veterans hall,” he said.

Humboldt County Public Works Director Thomas Mattson said the design of the building lent itself to issues with the mold.

“It’s about $1,8 million to fix the problems there and we could probably rebuild it for $2 million,” he said.

“The roof is flat. We’ve been trying to keep it patched as much as we could ... It’s collapsed and [there’s] mold everywhere.”

At the hearing on the June 19, the board won’t approve the whole $2 million for the project but county staff recommends the board approve allocating $50,000 to get started on the design process, Mattson said.

“We’ll be talking several different options,” he said about where in the county budget the money could come from, if approved.

In the year since the veterans hall closed, the Garberville VFW post has been forced to bounce around between four different meeting points around Southern Humboldt and have recently been meeting in the Healy Senior Center in Redway for monthly meetings, Swan said. But people needing to rent an affordable facility for a candidate debate, wedding, recitals or other community events have had to go elsewhere too, he said.

“The community lost the veterans hall as well as the veterans,” Swan said. “It was really an asset to the community.”

He said it’s “ridiculous” that the county let the building get so bad.

“The veterans had been going there for 55 years,” Swan said.

The land it’s build on was donated by the mother of the first military casualty in Humboldt County during World War II. Local veterans raised money to build the hall and it’s been operating ever since it opening in 1961. In 2002, the county took over maintenance of the facility, Swan said.

“We’re trying to keep the heat on the county to actually rebuild the hall for the benefit of the community,” he said.

If everything — the design phase, regulatory burdens and the construction — goes off without a hitch the county can have a new, better facility open in two to three years, Mattson said.

“That’s our goal,” he said.

Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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