Last Thursday, state and local officials, and other members of the White House community gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand opening of the Billy S. Hobbs Community Center.
The brand-new facility contains three floors of government and administrative offices, including a new board room for mayor and alderman meetings, as well as a senior center and rooms for community events.
“We wanted to make sure that the first floor really covered the parks and recreation, senior center, and community event center. So, basically anything for the public to do most of their gatherings,” City Administrator Gerald Herman said. “The second floor pertains to more administration such as finance and planning and codes, while other HR stuff is on the third floor.”
Construction on the community center started more than a year and a half ago in October 2020. Even though construction took nearly two years to complete, the vision behind the building started several years prior.
According to Mayor Farris Bibb, the city had originally wanted to renovate and expand the existing municipal building, but ground samples showed that the land could not support a multi-story building. Because of this, the project was moved to the property down the hill from its present location.
Prior to bidding the construction portion of the project, the initial cost estimate came in at more than $10 million. With those estimated costs, the city took out a bond for $11 million.
After receiving a construction bid of $8 million, the total cost of the building after furniture and equipment came in at $9.5 million. This allowed the remaining money to be used as site prep for the future recreational center, which is set to be built on the same campus.
“I want to thank the City Administrator Gerald Herman, and all of the city staff that came together to get this building up and running for today’s ceremony,” Bibb said.
Following opening remarks by Herman and Bibb, former mayor Billy Hobbs, for whom the center is named, came and addressed those in attendance. As the city’s first mayor after White House was incorporated in 1971, Hobbs served a total of 44 years in elected office in various positions, as well as 26 years as principal of the old high school.
“Where I’m standing right here, my children played baseball. So, you need to know the history. Do not take anything for granted. In life, in government, in education. Whatever it may be,” Hobbs said.
Following the passing of former county commissioner Don Eden earlier this year, the city dedicated the new community room to him, naming it the Donald L. Eden Community Room.
With several of his surviving family members present, White House Chamber of President Mandy Christenson presented them a resolution that is now hanging in the community room.
“Obviously we’ve been sad over the past five months, but the second most emotion I’ve had is pride,” Eden’s son Donnie said. “We are so proud that we got to be that close to an awesome guy. On behalf of the family, the fact that you all acknowledged him, it means so much to us.”
At the end of the ceremony a time capsule was buried, which contained various items such as newspaper clippings, letters from city officials, and other items from different departments. Everything in the capsule was collected over the course of last year as the city celebrated its 50th birthday celebration.
Police Chief Patrick Brady and Fire Chief Patrick McLaughlin helped lower the time capsule into a tank, which was then sealed underground. It will not be opened again until 50 years from now, in 2072.
“You’ll love this building. I just had the pleasure of going through it, and it’s beautiful,” Hobbs remarked. “This will last until the city is 100 years old. Take care of this building and in 50 years when you open this capsule, we’ll be able to pass this history on. I wrote a letter and put it in there to the citizens of White House from its founding mayor in 1971. I put a note on it, that said I want this letter to be read by my great-grandson, Asher Hobbs, who’s 3 years old now.”
Following the ribbon cutting and the open house of the community center, the board of mayor and aldermen held their first monthly meeting inside the new boardroom.