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Construction underway for new Haven House shelter

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

The head of a domestic-violence shelter in Henry County said she is "excited" about the prospect of serving more people in the near future, thanks to the ongoing construction of a new building for the organization.

"We have a capacity of 18 people now," said Marjorie Lacy, executive director of the Haven House shelter. "We will probably be able to accommodate 50 or so, in the new location."

The Henry County Board of Commissioners and county officials broke ground for the facility July 30. It will be housed at an undisclosed location in the county, to protect its clients, according to county officials.

The project is being funded by the county's third Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). Construction is currently under way and the project is expected to be completed by June of 2011.

Haven House serves Henry, Lamar, Butts and Jasper counties, according to a Wednesday press release. The total budget for the project is $2 million, which includes $80,000 in design costs, and construction costing $1,286,900.

Lacy said the new building will enable her clients to be safer and more comfortable than they are in the existing structure, which is 110 years old.

"Our current building is in horrid repair," said Lacy. "It's falling in around us. So, we really need a new facility."

The shelter will be approximately 14,472 square feet, and will include 16 bedrooms, a kitchen, a laundry area, a common living area, staff offices and a playground.

Henry County Assistant District Attorney Trea Pipkin, who is the vice president of the Haven House board of directors, and a member of the Henry Rotary Club, said the new Haven House facility is an important venture for the county.

"The county's population continues to grow," he said. "With that, the numbers of domestic-violence [cases] will continue to increase. Our old shelter, where the women were living, just simply is not large enough."

Pipkin added that the new building will allow its staff to operate more efficiently, and will benefit the community as a whole. "We are absolutely at maximum capacity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at our current facility," he said. "We are even having to spend additional funds to put people into hotel rooms, because we can't house them at the current facility. We're not turning anybody away, but we're having to make additional arrangements, which costs the county money."

The playground at the new site is being funded through the Rotary Club of Henry County. In the county's news release, District IV Commissioner Reid Bowman expressed his gratitude for the club's involvement in the project.

"We made a lot of changes in the first set of designs and we cut out a lot of bells and whistles, and we had to do a little size reduction," Bowman said. "But we've designed it in such a way, so that, as time goes on, and as Henry County grows and the need grows, we can add to it. The playground equipment was one of the bells and whistles that had to be taken out. However, since we've done that, the Rotary Club has stepped up and they're going to furnish the equipment, which is wonderful."