By Dave Russell
The former Jackson County Rescue Squad building, now home to the local American Legion chapter, has had a thorough makeover – and it’s not finished yet. Improved inside and out, the only remaining project is the paving of the parking lot.
Ed Harwood, commander of William E. Dillard Post 104, presented county commissioners and the Sylva town board with plaques at their recent meetings to thank them for the work.
“It sat here unused for many years,” Harwood said of the building, which was built in the mid-1980s. “Inside, it was just a big garage for parking rescue trucks. Primarily the work that has been done inside was in that large room that was the truck bay. It was just open all the way to the metal roof. There is now a drop ceiling in there.”
The big bay doors have been replaced by two windows and a door, with drywall inside.
“The room is finished now, with heating and air conditioning installed as well,” he said. “We used it before and we were happy to use it, and we never complained because we were glad to have a place to meet, but now it is much more usable.”
The exterior of the building was painted.
“It’s very nice,” he said. “We’re really happy with it.”
The county-owned building is located next to Mark Watson Park, just below the Jackson County Library.
Sylva and county officials pitched in money and time to make the improvements.
Jackson County contributed $49,000 and about 400 employee hours, according to Chad Parker, director of Jackson County Solid Waste.
The county’s contribution to repair the building went for:
• Remodeling garage doors and interior - $12,132.
• Installing HVAC - $14,900.
• Painting exterior - $10,165.
• Paving - $19,000.
Sylva’s town board agreed to contribute $7,500 towards the renovations.
The total cost was about $56,500, Parker said.
A local Veterans of Foreign Wars group has also begun using the building, Harwood said.
“We got permission for the VFW post that used to be in Cherokee to hold their monthly meetings there,” he said.
Some of the American Legion Post’s 136 members are also VFW members, so it made sense, he said.
About three months ago, the Legion began an American Legion Riders program.
“It’s people who have motorcycles and they do fundraisers,” he said. “They do the Colon Furr Memorial Nursing Scholarship, which goes to nursing students. Every year there is a legacy ride that goes all over the country and the money that is raised in that goes to the Legacy Fund, which supports students whose parent was killed or severely injured in the armed services. It pays college scholarships for them.”
Participants in the Riders program are required to be members of the American Legion.
The American Legion meets the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. The VFW meets the first Monday of the month at 6 p.m., and the American Legion Riders meet the first Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m., except in winter, when it’s too cold to ride, Harwood said.
The push for the renovations started in 2018, when Dan Schaeffer, director of the Sylva Public Works Department at the time, mentioned he’d like to see the outpost in better shape. “That’s an entrance to town right there, and that building looks awful,” Schaeffer said during a town board meeting in May, 2018.