Editor's note: This story was written before the official announcement of temporary hours at the Hope Mills Recreation Center. Please see linked press release for temporary recreation center hours.
The nightmare is almost over for Maxey Dove and the staff of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department.
After being forced out of their headquarters by Hurricane Florence in mid-February, Dove and his weary team are hopeful they’ll be back in place and running the town’s recreation program at full speed by early February.
As early as the final hours of Hurricane Florence, Dove and the recreation department staff were on the roof of the building using tar to patch numerous leaks. But those leaks proved to be the least of their worries.
Power went out to the recreation center the day after the storm hit. It wasn’t restored until the following Tuesday.
By that time, all the leaks and the water that got inside the building had created a gigantic mess.
Dove said there were no adequate words to describe just how bad it was inside the building by the time power was restored.
“It stayed wet for four or five days,’’ he said of the building’s interior. “You could see moisture on the walls and floors. We could not get it to dry.’’
That took a toll on a lot of things in the building. Dove estimated up to 80 percent of the building’s heating and air duct work had to be replaced, along with a large number of ceiling tiles and all of the building’s carpet.
It wasn’t until power was restored that huge fans could be brought in to circulate air and dry the walls and floors.
As many as four buckets of tar were used to patch leaks on the flat roof. The recreation staff recovered as many shingles as they could from around the building and put them back on the roof.
In addition to work from the staff, help with repairs came from a rescue group from Lincoln, Nebraska, and some federal emergency workers who came to Hope Mills.
Most of the athletic equipment stored in the building survived after being cleaned. A few exceptions were some cloth items, like chest protectors for baseball and softball, along with some mesh and canvas bags. A lot of paper products were soaked and had to be thrown out.
Getting the building back in shape wasn’t the only problem for the recreation staff. They had to relocate their workspace to the Board of Commissioners meeting room in Town Hall.
That meant setting up tables with laptop computers. On days when the commissioners met or some other group needed the meeting room, the recreation staff had to tear down their tables and chairs and move to a hallway.
Now, finally, all the uproar is coming to an end. Dove hoped to move back into the recreation center by Tuesday, Jan. 22. But he doesn’t expect the building will be fully operational on that date. “We’re probably going to have to ease into it,’’ he said.
The good news for the recreation staff is the gymnasium was spared some of the damage the main building suffered and has been open and in use since the second week of December.
The doors connecting the gym to the main building are roped off. There are porta-potties outside the gym. People have to access the gym by a side door, but at least it has been available for activities.
Dove’s main concern now is to get the fitness room ready and the court for a game called Pickle Ball usable again.
Both Dove and Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner praised the recreation staff for dealing with making repairs to the damaged facilities while still doing their jobs and working out of temporary quarters in Town Hall.
“They’ve worked like it was a regular work day,’’ Warner said.
In addition to the regular activities of the recreation department, Warner praised the staff for handling the additional challenge of special events like Ole Mill Days, Breakfast with Santa and the annual Hope Mills Christmas Parade while being out of their natural quarters.
“They’ve had to deal with adverse situations and they’ve done a great job,’’ she said. “They’ve been most pleasant and agreeable to whatever changes had to be made.’’