Civic Center project moves forward


The project to rehabilitate the deteriorating civic center at 503 N. 9th St. has progressed to the funding stage.

The city council on May 24 approved a request to apply for a grant of $41,420 from the Otto Bremer Foundation for the rehab. Clerk Katie Hunter later learned that the city would only be able to apply for a $33,050 grant from the foundation for the project as in-kind work couldn’t be included.

The project committee presented the council with a spread sheet showing all the materials needed for the job, and their costs. City council member Paul Whitcomb suggested the city contribute.

The city council had been using the approach of seeking donations and volunteer help to get the project done.

The work will include roofing, repairing sagging ceiling joists, renovating the siding, replacing 14 sunroom windows, three casement windows, exterior doors and two door frames, new carpeting, flooring work, new kitchen cabinets, insulation, lighting and electrical upgrade. It will also include heating and air conditioning, restroom improvements and placing a gas fireplace insert into the field stone fireplace.

The committee has met nearly a half dozen times and different organizations have committed to the project, according to Hunter. Organizers have also talked about applying for even more grant money and seek more donations. Hunter and Whitcomb explained that the projet could eventually cost more than $41,420 as the renovation project gets going.

Whitcomb asked fellow council members to consider having the city donate 10 percent of the the city’s $325,000 in tax increment surplus money. Whitcomb noted that the number one questions citizens have asked him about the project is how much the city intends to put into it. A city donation like that would show the city’s effort, he said.

Council member Dick Dobson said he feels the civic center project is worthwhile but that the council should discuss how to use the tax increment surplus fund at a future meeting, since others have made requests for some of that money.

They include Carol Ossell, who is heading a project to build an amphitheater at Riverside Park, and Penny Quast who is spearheading a rehabilitation project at the historical society’s depot center. The council should not give out money piecemeal from the surplus fund, but instead consider all the requests at one time, Dobson explained.


Money had been allocated

The city had actually once designated as much as $250,000 for the civic center rehab project in the city’s capital improvement fund. The council first designated $125,000 in about 2008 and then another $125,000 the following year. But then midway through 2009 when the city lost a substantial amount of state aid money, it removed all but $10,000 from the designation. Later it removed the $10,000 as well, according to city treasurer Steve Jackson.

Jackson explained that there was no point in designating money for a project when it was not far enough along in the planning.

But now things are looking up for the project, considering the council’s May 24 discussion.

Rehab committee chair Hunter said that committee member Doug Farm is in the construction business and has connections with other contractors who might be able to contribute. Deb Farm, also on the committee, has fundraising skills, Hunter added.

The city decided this past winter to no longer rent the civic center out for events quite like it had for some years, citing the deterioration of the structure.

No time line has been established for when the renovation would begin and end. Since money is an object, that will likely be a factor.