West Point pride was in the air as area residents admired the newly renovated West Point Community Hall on the morning of Oct. 5, just an hour before the Lumberjack Day Parade.
The 70-plus-year-old building was originally a general store, and was eventually converted into a movie theater. Today, the West Point Lions Club maintains and rents out the building for community events, public meetings, family gatherings and more. It also serves as an emergency shelter for the county.
With $100,000 in Butte Fire settlement funds at his disposal, County Facilities and Grounds Manager Patrick Martin oversaw the six-week project.
An enormous wooden storage closet at the far end of the room reads, “Welcome to West Point” in a bold black font. The wood was leftover from a pergola built for a beautification project on the Government Center campus in San Andreas last year, Martin said.
The room’s original pine wood flooring was restored, its walls were insulated and its ceiling was sound-proofed and retrofitted with two gigantic fans and light emitting diode (LED) illumination.
Multiple residents remarked on how difficult it was to hear in the room before the soundproof padding was installed.
“There was so much reverb in here, everything was the 1960s pressed wood paneling that was so hard that everything echoed, so this is a whole new ceiling,” said Lions Club member Vicki Snead-Hinkell.
Items from the county’s old jail that were slated to be demolished were instead repurposed to improve the building’s kitchen, complete with a commercial stove, Ansul hood and a hanging steel pot rack.
Restrooms were made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with new wooden stalls and doors, and waterless urinals were installed to conserve water.
The bathrooms also received a fresh paint job, to Snead-Hinkell’s delight.
Snead-Hinkell helped coordinate between the county and community members to make various improvements.
“My biggest hope is that the community comes and enjoys it and uses it,” she said of the community hall. “I’m delighted about the entire look of it, the improvement in the acoustics, the commercial kitchen. And we don’t have a pink bathroom anymore … It was very pink.”
Dozens of historical photos dating back to the 1800s now line one wall of the room, contributed by historian and fourth-generation West Point resident Kirk Smith, and framed by West Point resident Judy Smith.
Beyond the improvements in aesthetics and functionality as a space for events and meetings, the upgrades are a great support for its use as an emergency shelter, said Red Cross volunteer Dennis Lewis. One such improvement was the installation of a transfer switch to power a generator in the case of an widespread power outage, Lewis said.
In a disaster event, the facility would be used as a dormitory for people to sleep in, Lewis said. “We can put about 40 to 45 people in here in cots like this,” he said, standing next to a cot with a blanket draped over it.
He said the renovations have been in the works since 2012, when he sent a letter on behalf of Red Cross to the Lions Club and the county to make the place ADA-compliant. It’s been hard to get the ball rolling on the project due, in part, to a lack of funds and the difficulties of organizing a short-handed, mostly elderly volunteer workforce across the county, Lewis said.
“This is a premier hall in the county now, I think,” Lewis said. “Now we have ADA-compliant bathrooms, a commercial kitchen, a room where you can hear people … This is a community coming together.”
Martin emphasized that the participation of local contractors brought the project to life.
“They all donated time and effort way beyond the contract for the work,” he said.
According to a county poster in the room, contractors included Angels Sewer and Drain; of Angels Camp; Big Bear Drywall, of Murphys; Cisco Fire, of Copperopolis; Gaspers Electric, of Valley Springs; Michelotti Engineering, of Sacramento; Old School Hardwood Floors, of Murphys; Pinnells Carpet One, of Angels Camp; RLK Inc. Locksmith, of Pine Grove; and Sequoia Insulation, of Valley Springs. A special thanks was made to contributors Alfredo’s Estate Clean Up, of West Point; Angels Sewer and Drain; Gaspers Electric; Kirk Stout, of San Andreas; Kurt Puttkammer, of West Point; Sierra Pacific Industries, of Martell; and the West Point Community Center Design Team.
“I’m just tickled to death by the way it turned out,” Martin said of the project. “We had a lot of fun with it.”
Martin said the next Butte Fire settlement-funded improvement projects will likely be in community halls in Mountain Ranch and Valley Springs.
“Our community halls are our cornerstone,” said District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi. “We’re very proud of it, and it’ll serve as a resource for the community in times of disaster, a place for gathering and recovery post-disaster, and a place for community involvement in pre-disaster planning.”