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MAFEW Wants To Use Former Armory As Community Center

The Harrodsburg Herald/Robert Moore
Officials from MAFEW, which until recently operated a daycare facility at the former National Guard Armory on College Street, say they want to continue using the building as a community center.

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

Mercer Area Family Education and Wellness would like to continue running the National Guard Armory as a community center and are looking for partners, but others have plans for the building.

At the Harrodsburg Board of Commissioners regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, representatives from Mercer Area Family and Education and Wellness (MAFEW) presented their plan for the armory. MAFEW operated a daycare facility until June 30 in the building, which is owned and maintained by the City of Harrodsburg. Questions have been raised about the future of the facility over the past few months.

MAFEW board president Donald Wayne Smith said the board saw it as an opportunity to operate it more like the YMCA, which called the former armory until about six years ago. Smith said Mercer County youth have nowhere to hang out, which is a role the YMCA filled.

“This is a perfect opportunity to combine all walks of life,” said Smith, who said the Y had always been a “very pivotal place.”

“This building would be ideal for that,” Smith said. “We already have a lot of partnerships.”

Smith expressed frustration with people making plans for the armory, sometimes without consulting anyone at MAFEW.

“Once that daycare went down, everybody tried to get the building,” he said.

Smith said MAFEW has a lease on the building until 2029.

“No one really wants to partner,” he told the commissioners. “They want the building for itself.”

He said the building, which began as a National Guard Armory, is big enough for all kinds of resources.

“I get frustrated,” Smith said.

In September, Jack Mattingly, a Vietnam veteran and one of Kentucky’s leading advocates for veterans, asked for support from the city and county governments in using the armory as the possible home for the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame in 2017. Mattingly said the hall of fame would draw visitors to the area.

“It’s almost a no-brainer,” he said at the time.

Mattingly also went before the Mercer County Fiscal Court and the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Tourist Commission to ask for their support. On Monday, Mattingly noted the armory is not handicapped accessible.

“It needs an elevator,” he said. Mattingly said he believed he could get an elevator installed at no charge to the city. He said they could get grants from Kentucky Veterans Affairs to make improvements. Mattingly also spoke of his desire to make the building into a memorial for the Harrodsburg Tanker.

“The YMCA failed. The daycare failed,” Mattingly said. “Nothing has been done to the outside of it.”

“These guys have a lease,” said Interim Mayor Sam Carr. “The city cannot evict them. I wish you guys could work together and share the building.”

MAFEW has made upgrades to the facility. Pierce said the only thing they needed moving forward was air conditioning for the gymnasium.

The armory’s roof was damaged in the storms in March 2023. Commissioner Charlie Mattingly said the contractor who’d repaired the roof said they’d need to replace the whole thing.

“You’re looking at a lot of money,” Commissioner Mattingly said. “The building is old. It’s needed a lot of work.”

One thing MAFEW needs to move forward is a new executive director, Smith said.  Debrah Pierce, the CEO and office manager, is retiring but will remain with MAFEW until a new director is hired to help with the transition. Smith said the organization has the funds to make the hire.

“I need to get a dynamic leader who can walk with all walks of life,” Smith said.

Carr asked about money owed to the city. Pierce said MAFEW had permission to repay the difference owed on the loan between the city and MAFEW, which amounts to up to $15,000, with credit for the upgrades they did on the building. Carr asked them to present the information at the next building.

“We’re not going to settle this today,” Carr said.

“Maybe there’s a way to make a win-win out of this,” said Jack Mattingly, who suggested MAFEW relocate to the Harrodsburg High School building. Carr said the city does not own the school building.

“You want the building, he’s the one with the lease,” Carr said. “They legally have the building.”

While Commissioner Marvin “Bubby” Isham has questioned the city’s ownership of so many properties around Harrodsburg, he praised what MAFEW had done since taking over the former armory in 2017.

“It’s been great for the kids of Mercer County,” Isham said. “There has been a whole lot of good come out of it.”

The city commission took no action on the issue.

For the rest of the story, check out this week’s edition of the Harrodsburg Herald. Click here to subscribe.

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