Building safe, just falling apart

A recent rain and windstorm did a lot to prove the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge is in dire need of some roof repairs; it also went a long way to show the dedication of city staff to support the center. However, despite volunteer efforts, and the board's decision to OK funding for necessary roof repairs, staff at the center is convinced it's only a matter of time before the center needs to be rebuilt.

Large black tarps weighted down on the roof above the community center's ceramics studio now accompany the clear plastic tarp tacked down on the adjoining roof. The tarps were placed there last weekend after community center board chair Penny Ledbetter made a call to Mayor Dave Spence to let him know about the buckets of water cascading into the ceramics studio and flooding the floorboards of the center's main dining and meeting room.

“This past rainfall surprised us with even more leaks than we could have ever anticipated,” Ledbetter wrote in a thank you letter to city staff, recently published in the Valley Sun.

What was more surprising than the amount of rainfall was the city's prompt actions of assistance, especially on a weekend, said Megan Nordvedt, executive director at the community center.

“Penny called just to tell the mayor what was happening and he said, 'I'm going to make a few calls.' It was such a quick chain of events. The next thing I knew [city crews] were down here putting the tarps in place. And, all of the sudden the rains stopped coming in,” Nordvedt said. “Wow! I never expected such a quick response.”

Although the city owns the land and facilities, the community center is leased from the city, and, according to the lease agreement, it's not the city's responsibility to repair the roof, Nordvedt said. “But the mayor and the city were incredible. They didn't just say, 'It's your problem.' They could have done that.”

Nordvedt and a few of her co-workers were at the center on Friday night, Jan. 4, when the rain began. She went home that night after buckets were in place to catch the water that had begun to drop down from the ceiling. Although she went about her personal business, thoughts of the center weren't far from her mind.

“Any time when it rains, and I'm home, I think to myself, 'I wonder what's happening down at the center,' ” she said. However, the next morning, when she and other staff stopped by to check on the facility, there was a lake of water in the multi-purpose room and water everywhere in the ceramics room. “We were a bit overwhelmed. So, I called Penny. Then she called the mayor,” Nordvedt said.

Folks at the community center have known for a long time that the aging building is in need of repairs. The structure has issues with plumbing, the roof, electrical system, and peeling paint, she said. “Any time you've got an old building that's used a lot for a lot of events, like ours is, it's just a matter of time before things start to go wrong. But, it's been determined that the facility is safe for the children in our programs and the community to use. It's just an old building. And anything we do to fix it, short of re-building, is just a Band-aid.”

Eventually, when finances allow, the center hopes to rebuild in the same location, possibly doubling the current size to around 20,000 square feet. Plans already have been drawn; however, questions remain as to how to best take advantage of the lot and gain the additional square footage without creating underground parking, which has been determined to be too costly and involve too much construction to allow the current pre-school and community programs to continue in the interim, Nordvedt said.

Because the community center relies primarily on donations, in order to operate and repair the structure, it could be a while before a new structure is built.

“Our budget is being eaten up trying to maintain buildings that are way past patching,” Ledbetter's letter said.

Ledbetter suggests that community members who'd like to help contribute to the center's “Be An Angel” program. Donors receive a stone angel statue for their garden, their name on a plaque at the center, as well as the knowledge that their money is going to help fix the damage inside due to the leaking roof, replace the roof and further maintain the building, landscape and pre-school.

To donate, call Megan Nordvedt at 790-4353 or visit the Internet website at

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