The Ed Rice Community Center in Frayser remains closed while experts check for mold and other allergens. But officials expect it to open later this week. (Photo:Lee Eric Smith)

Amid concerns about air quality, the Ed Rice Community Center in Frayser remains closed – for now. City officials, however, expect the facility to reopen by the end of the week.

Chief Communications Officer Ursula Madden said environmental specialists are inspecting the building for allergens after hearing concerns about the facility last week.

“The preliminary indications are that the building is fine,” said Madden.

Rumors of a mold problem first surfaced shortly after the Aug. 2 primaries. The Ed Rice Center serves as a polling station and a poll worker reportedly complained of feeling ill after the election. Madden said the city only heard of it last week and moved quickly.

“It’s a serious allegation, to say that the building is making you sick,” she said. “We know it’s terribly inconvenient for a lot of people. We just don’t want to put anyone at risk.”

Some Frayser community leaders called a press conference Tuesday to express their concerns about the facility – and to call for a new center to replace Ed Rice, which was built more than 50 years ago.

“Our No. 1 priority is to make sure we that we get a new facility at the Ed Rice Community,” said Stephanie Love, a Shelby County Schools Board Commissioner who lives in Frayser. “We’re not here to place blame on anybody. What we’re saying is that this community deserves a new community center.”

The city has already allocated $900,000 in this year’s budget for a feasibility study on whether Ed Rice can (or should) be renovated or replaced, Madden said. And there’s $8 million earmarked in the 2019-20 budget for a Frayser community center to replace Ed Rice.

But recent concerns about allergens are new.

“Have we had complaints about the condition fo the facility? Absolutely,” Madden said. “But no one’s ever complained about getting sick from the building.”

Madden said specialists are double checking to ensure that the center is safe to use.

“They’re working to get the mold to acceptable levels,” Madden said. “For example, we all probably have some mold in our houses, but it’s not making us sick. If the experts say that it’s safe, we’ll re-open the facility. But if there is a problem, we’re going to fix the problem.”

Meanwhile, the city is directing citizens to the North Frayser Community Center, 3.2 miles away at 2555 St. Elmo Ave.; and Kate Sexton Community Center, also 3.2 miles away at 1235 Brown Ave.

When Ed Rice re-opens, Madden said residents should feel confident that it’s safe.

“It won’t be the City of Memphis saying that it’s safe; it’ll be trained scientists,” she said. “It’s not like we’re sayng ‘Ursula Madden did a swab and ran some tests.’

“And the truth is, if we knew about it and didn’t investigate it, people would be even more concerned,” she added. “We feel like the way we’ve handled it, we tried to do the right thing. And we believe people can trust that.”