George Community Hall loses old roof, ready for new one

Debby Kooy peeks at the dilapidated woodwork that held the roof in place for as long as it could at the George Community Hall. Work to replace the roof began in earnest earlier this month and should be completed by mid-fall.

GEORGE — They say the key to happiness is to have a roof over your head. Nowadays in George, the opposite is also true.

There’s no roof atop the George Community Hall and some of the folks in town can barely contain their glee.

Debby Kooy, events director of the Community Hall’s board, sounds nothing if not cheerful and optimistic when touring the roofless wonder.

The sight of the trees where the roof ought to be has taken a long time in becoming a reality.

It’s been years since members of the board first noticed the roof bending near the center. It’s also been years since residents and patrons of the hall began using anything they could in order to keep the roof from sagging further, sometimes with subpar results.

“We put new asphalt shingles on, which of course added to the weight,” Kooy said, recalling one of the first experiments. “There were five trusses and they were all failing.”

Despite the aging roof, the hall continued to host concerts and events. They had engineering firms check out the roof, and with their blessing, the shows carried on. As did the worry. At its worst, the ceiling’s edge and the ceiling’s center differed in height by almost a foot.

“They said, ‘It’s fine for now,’” Kooy said of the engineers’ reviews, which kept the concerts going, and kept the Hall’s caretakers from having to warn performers of how the roof might collapse in mid-song.

Now, thanks to state and private grants, donations and help from places such as the Lauzier Foundation, the community may start dreaming of a new roof.

It won’t be easy, Kooy warned. Construction costs are going up, so the board hopes the money they have raised is enough to squeak by, as she put it.

“It would not hurt us to raise more money,” she said, standing in the middle of the roofless hall. “We need many more things in this room other than just get a lid put on.”

For example, to help muffle the sound, the hall had green carpets installed on the walls. The carpets, much like the roof, has seen better days.

“So ugly,” Kooy said. “I just hate it.”

The bad feelings don’t last long, though. Seeing the roof lid-less remains a good thing.

The work continues at the site. The new trusses will arrive in the next few weeks. Moses Lake-based contractor Caleb McNamara predicted a timeline of 60 days for the whole project.

“Sounds like a miracle, to me,” Kooy said. “But the guy knows what he’s talking about.”

The hall is closing in on its 60th birthday, and it’s been well used by the George community. Even in the middle of a pandemic and with a dilapidated roof, the town still managed to have a good time during its annual Fourth of July celebration.

And in August, the celebration continued, for the humans at least. Some other species weren’t so lucky.

“We had a very large bird’s nest built in the rafters,” Kooy said on Aug. 20. “It got taken away today. No skunks or ‘possums, though.”

The board has set a tentative date of November 2021 for a grand opening of the new-roofed hall. The board hopes to have its traditional coffeehouse music performances going again by then. In a normal year, they start in October.

The bluegrass festival is happening, but outdoors this year, with people maintaining social distance and wearing masks.

Despite the changes, postponements and snags, it’s a good time to be a resident of George, a community Kooy says is known for its patience.

After years of waiting, the new roof sits weeks from becoming a reality.

“I’m very happy,” Kooy said.