Civic Center Presents Interesting Opportunities

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Civic Center Presents Interesting Opportunities

by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

 

With CNH moving out of the north end of the Civic Center in October, Benson Public Schools have an opportunity to provide its sports programs with new facilities that serve not only students, but also the community at large.

Over the past several years, the school board has looked at multiple options to expand the gymnasium space it has with little success. Voters have rejected plans that would have seen new facilities constructed and show little appetite at this time for approving the construction of new buildings.

Further, its space for student gym classes and sports programs has been shrinking lately. Even though the City of Benson has put on hold indefinitely plans to renovate the city-owned Amory for new city office space, that plan is still on the table and could be brought back in the relatively near future.

 

The school board is right to be anxious about where it will find space for the gymnastics program if it doesn’t have the Amory. An earlier search found no viable solutions. It also has concerns about the safety of the cramped space it already uses in the Armory gymnasium. Once a public body expresses publically its concern about the safety of a facility it is using, it had better make sure it addresses those safety concerns or it has a poor case should it find itself in court.
The school district also finds itself short of space today because the Junior High School auditorium is now shut down. A small section of the ceiling fell onto a seating area in April. The school board is conducting a thorough study of the ceiling, roof and building’s overall structural integrity. Monday night it approved bringing in a company to do infrared scans that can give architects a better idea of just how solid, or degraded, the building is. It wants that report to help it decide how to move forward.

Whatever the decision, it is highly likely the auditorium will be out of commission for at least the 2017-2018 school year.

Benson’s Civic Center already houses the high school hockey program and is open for general public use as well. It has locker rooms, public bathrooms and a concession stand. School Board Member Bill McGeary, who also works with the hockey program, said it is willing to share all its facilities with school if the north end of the Civic Center is renovated for high school sports.

There will be costs to renovating the north end of the Civic Center taking if from industrial use to a public space for sports and spectators.  The concrete floor is uneven and has raised concrete slabs that once were used to anchor industrial equipment. The lighting system is geared to warehouse use not a gymnasium. Overhead doors will have to be removed with siding installed. The heating system needs a thermostat system to better regulate the heat in the building. The sprinkler system may need upgrading.

Already the City of Benson is investing $130,000 in a new roof for the north end of the Civic Center. It also has about $90,000 left to pay on work to improvements to the south side that saw the installation of an air handler system and insulation. In the past, it has used the $39,500 annual payment it receives from CNH to pay for improvements to the building. CNH has also paid property taxes on the space it uses. With the company now leaving, the city, hockey program and school will have to figure out how the payments are going to be made.
Still, the opening of the north end of the Civic Center represents some real opportunities for the community that should be pursued.

Some readers of the Monitor-News will notice that we bylined all the major stories were wrote this week. The bylines were in response to several people asking us exactly what we did at the Monitor-News, not knowing that we cover the Swift County Board of Commissioners, Benson City Council, District 777 Board of Education and the Swift County-Benson Health Services meetings. We write features stories, court stories, weather stories and take many news photos. We also pick the weeds out of the front sidewalk, try fix the roof when it is leaking, pay the bills and do the payroll.

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