Town council formally commits $100,000 to Calfee project


The Patriot


The Town of Pulaski has formally committed $100,000 requested by organizers of the Calfee Community and Cultural Center as local matching funds for a $1 million federal grant to help pay for unanticipated higher construction costs.

Vice Mayor Brooks Dawson offered a motion during Tuesday’s town council meeting to commit the funds, contingent on Calfee officials securing another $100,000 in needed local matching funds to obtain the federal grant.

Calfee project organizers plan to seek a similar $100,000 amount from the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors at the board’s monthly meeting Monday night.

The local governments’ contributions would create the 20 percent in matching local funds required to land the $1 million U.S. Economic Development Administration grant.

Calfee CCC Executive Director Jill Williams made the request for the donation during a meeting of Pulaski Town Council last month.

Williams said the need for further funding for the project became evident earlier this year.

“We really thought we had raised just about all the money we needed for this project,” Williams told council.

She said in July of 2020, cost estimates for the project included $200,000 for architect and engineering design fees; a little over $2 million for construction and about $1 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment along with startup costs.

In April of this year, however, Williams said a revised estimate put construction costs at just under $4 million – $2 million more than first thought.

“Now we have to raise the better part of $2 million,” Williams said, noting “there is a pathway to get there.”

In addition to historic tax credits, Williams said Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have worked to get $500,000 into the Senate version of the budget proposal for the National Parks Service for the project.

“They feel very confident this will happen,” Williams told council.

Much of the rest needed would come from the federal EDA grant.

Williams added that Calfee is not just going to government sources for funding. As of the beginning of September, organizers had raised just over $650,000 from private sources. Included in that, she said, are eight private foundation grants and one donor of over $100,000 – that being Shelor Motor Mile and David Hagan and Larry Shelor.

Williams said the $100,000 contribution from the town would be contingent on three things:

  • Successful application for the $1 million EDA grant.
  • Pulaski County providing $100,000 in matching local funds.
  • The Calfee CCC raising the rest of the funds needed to complete the project.

In her presentation last month, Williams outlined details about the Calfee project and the needs it will address.

She said the project will draw attention to the “amazing history” of the Calfee Training School and the local fight for civil rights that many around the country and even locally know nothing about.

Another need it will address is the “childcare desert” the community finds itself in.

“Only about eight and a half percent of children below pre-school age have licensed childcare spots. That is a problem that harms people across the income spectrum. One in four residents in the Town of Pulaski live below the poverty line. Local employers have told us that high levels of absenteeism due to a lack of childcare is one of the biggest problems they have with retaining employees,” she said.

The center will provide a health department-certified community kitchen for food-based business entrepreneurs, internet access for some of the 30 percent of Pulaski County residents who currently lack internet access, and basic computer skills.

The center will include a museum in addition to the kitchen, a “donate what you can café” and a childcare facility for 100 children. Williams said the center will partner with Headstart, the YMCA and Pulaski County Schools on childcare.

It will also have natural outdoor play spaces, a digital learning lab that will address and provide literacy opportunities, workforce development classes – all the way up to some digital editing and more advanced computer skills aimed at helping people of all ages be able to go to work.

There will also be an event hall and office spaces for rent, as well as a nature walk and playground space that will be open to the public.

Williams said 18 full-time jobs will be created at the community center, 64 local full-time jobs will be retained with 36 of those for low to moderate income individuals in the county because of childcare and food services at the center, and three food-based businesses will be either started or scaled up in the space in the first year of operation.

Williams said the project is in the capital campaign portion now along with getting final construction designs prepared and reviewed by the Department of Historic Resources.

They hope to hire a contractor toward the end of this year or early next year, construction during 2023 and opening the doors by mid-2024.