Fate of City Auditorium to be determined

Sometime after the holidays, the public will have the opportunity to provide their opinions on the future of City Auditorium.

by April Scheinoha

    The Pennington County Board is contemplating the future of City Auditorium. At their meeting Tuesday, Nov. 28, commissioners asked the Building Committee to determine various options for City Auditorium. Sometime after the holidays, County Board plans to hold a public hearing to hear the public’s views on those options.
    At the Nov. 28 meeting, commissioners noted that the options may include fixing the building, selling the property or tearing down the building.
    Commissioner Donā€ˆJensen said the roof and electrical wiring are in poor shape. He added that it is in the best interest of county taxpayers to set a date to determine how the county will handle the property in the future.
    Commissioner Bruce Lawrence said the county pays between $20,000 and $30,000 annually to maintain the building. The county currently leases the building to the Thief River Falls Amateur Hockey Association, Thief River Falls School District, St. Bernard’s Catholic School and the city of Thief River Falls.
    Over the past 11 years, commissioners have discussed the future of City Auditorium. In 2007, discussions began after commissioners researched what should be done to improve courtroom security at the courthouse. Little action was taken between 2007 and 2012 to address the county’s space needs due to concerns over the county’s bond ceiling. That discussion returned to the forefront in January 2012, when commissioners were setting goals for the year. At that time, then-Chairman Oliver “Skip” Swanson said he wanted the county to develop a long-term plan for City Auditorium and the Jail Annex since both buildings were costing a lot more money to maintain than they generated.
    During the course of ensuing conversations about City Auditorium since that time, Commissioner Darryl Tveitbakk recalled many people saying that City Auditorium is a landmark. He agreed with them, but Tveitbakk noted it costs the county money to own the building and it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the building to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    Commissioners also noted that the property is valuable. The Human Services Department will move to the courthouse once the justice center is completed. Jensen noted parking is limited outside of the courthouse now, and leveling City Auditorium may alleviate additional parking issues that may occur after those employees begin working there.
    Commissioners accepted the retirement of Kim Swanson, University of Minnesota Extension office manager, and approved advertising for the county position. Swanson has worked for the county for 35 years, and commissioners thanked her for her years of service.
    County Board approved hiring Collin Longo and Tanner Wellman as corrections officers. Sheriff Ray Kuznia said the county will have to repost another vacant corrections officer position.
    The next County Board meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. at the Pennington County Courthouse. The first meeting of the month is usually scheduled at 10 a.m. However, this meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. since commissioners will consider the 2018 budget that day and are required to hold the meeting at that time.