By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Staff
Snowbird community services will no longer be operating out of a refurbished drug store.
A near $18 million complex will have its ribbon-cutting Friday, June 3 at 1 p.m. and will house a multitude of supporting services for the Snowbird Community of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). The 47,545-square-foot facility will hold offices for those programs, as well as a gym.
The complex is built on the same ground as the old buildings at 60 Snowbird School Rd. The completion of this project comes three years after the groundbreaking and demolition of the old site.
“A lot of the older buildings they had out here at Snowbird, a lot of them honestly probably would’ve been dilapidated in most places. They were piecemealed together. The sewer system didn’t work. There were numerous abandoned drain fills systems out here from sewer systems. It’s almost 100 percent better than what they had,” said Chris Greene, manager of EBCI Project Management.
This complex will house the clinic, police department, transportation, TANF, and more. Each program will have a reception desk or window to facilitate visitors.
“You have a one-stop-shop. You have one building you go to, and you’ll have most of the amenities that you need in Snowbird under one roof. You can figure out where you need to go once you come here,” said Greene.
Travis Sneed, director of EBCI Support Services, said that the main goal of the project was to get as many programs under one roof as possible.
“The resource that is tough to quantify or put a cost to is time. Saving community members time by being in a place where they can get all their answers and fulfill all their needs in one location is something that we don’t really do a really job at,” said Sneed.
“Can this serve as a model for Cherokee with what we’re seeing here? I would say yes. What you’re seeing here in this complex is a kind of microcosm of what we could really achieve on a larger scale in Cherokee on the Qualla Boundary. Integrating different services, governance, etc. under one roof. To achieve efficiency and cooperation.”
Greene and Sneed said that one of the most alarming issues with the old buildings was the sewer systems that were in place. Following demolition, there were multiple systems discovered, some of which that had been lost to time. Greene said at one point they were having to pump the sewer system once a month just to keep it running.
“What we ended up doing is now it has its own treatment facility out here. It’s pretty self-sustainable. A contractor takes care of it once a month, comes by and checks it. But it pretty much runs itself,” said Greene.
With so many programs involved in this project, it was going to be difficult during the transitional phase. This comes from the fact that they couldn’t start construction until after the demolition of the old facilities.
“We experienced growing pains here. We had to displace this entire group of folks into town into basically a remodeled drug store next to Ingles. They had to live out of that for close to two years. But in the end, it’s worth it,” said Sneed.
Where to build was heavily discussed by the Tribe, but they decided that maintaining familiarity was important for the one-stop-shop approach.
“This location is a location that is beloved by the community here. So, there is a familiarity here with this location. For a lot of your community members, especially your older members in the community, the familiarity of how to get to this location. The comfort of being back in a familiar location. A peaceful location that is located by the creeks here and by the water. It’s a place of comfort to come back to a place that has been in peoples’ lives for many years,” said Sneed.
The design of the facility is supposed to accentuate Snowbird and the natural environment. There was a focus on putting in large windows in many of the rooms. This offers views of the creek and surrounding forests. Blue is the accent of the complex, with splashes of color throughout. There is also an ode to the old complex.
“Going back to the old gym, where it had that tongue-and-groove on the ceiling, and it was beautiful. One of things we wanted to do was we didn’t want to just demolish it. We wanted to reuse it somehow in this facility. We all worked with the architect to come up with the idea of making the community room wall that shows that tongue-and-groove that was on the ceiling of the old facility,” said Greene.
Something that is new to the building are two of the offices that reside on the second floor. The offices are currently designated as community offices for the two sitting Tribal Council members for Snowbird/Cherokee Co.
This was the biggest project in Snowbird for many years. With the ribbon-cutting just a few days away, Project Management can turn to the future. Greene said that there are plans being drawn up to revamp and grow the Junaluska Museum. For now, all of Snowbird programs will be looking to settle into their new home.