Removing the veil from City Auditorium

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

by April Scheinoha

Pennington County commissioners received a sneak peek at their meeting Tuesday, April 24. Commissioner Darryl Tveitbakk, a member of the Building Committee, previewed the committee’s upcoming presentation on City Auditorium.
The county is holding a meeting Monday, May 7 to receive public input on the future of the building. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. in Courtroom A at the Pennington County Courthouse.
During the County Board meeting, Tveitbakk outlined the current state of the building. Right now, the building fails to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The entrance features many steps, and many of the interior doors aren’t wide enough to accommodate those using wheelchairs.
The state has condemned the 1935 boiler in City Auditorium, Tveitbakk said. The 1978 electric boiler is expensive to operate and the county is concerned about its age. Tveitbakk noted that some of the 83-year-old steam radiators aren’t functioning. Air conditioning is ineffective in the building, and the ventilation system doesn’t function in the gym. There is also water damage in the kitchen and lower level meeting room.
Tveitbakk said he and Bruce Schwartzman have estimated the cost of renovating the building. Schwartzman is the architect working on the justice center building. Tveitbakk plans to reveal the numbers at the meeting May 7.
“If we had a money tree hanging out there somewhere, I’d like to restore it,” Tveitbakk said.
The county currently spends at least $23,000 annually to operate the building. However, that amount doesn’t include insurance. It receives $3,600 in revenue each year. The county 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. Tae Kwon Do and Just For Kix have also rented the facility on a more casual basis recently.
After meeting in closed session for about 30 minutes, County Board authorized County Engineer Mike Flaagan to negotiate with Glenn Dvorsak to purchase his property. Dvorsak lives along Mark Boulevard, where the county is planning to build a bridge in 2019. The bridge and new roadway will span over the Red Lake River and connect with County State Aid Highway 8 in front of Challenger Elementary School.
Commissioners approved Flaagan’s four-year reappointment as county engineer effective May 1. Flaagan’s current salary is $97,560. He will receive a 3 percent increase in 2018 and 2.5 percent increases in the successive years.
Commissioners approved covering the cost of 40-foot culverts. If a larger culvert were needed, the county will look into the matter on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, the property owner will be required to pay for a culvert wider than 40 feet.
In the past, the county was covering the cost of 30-foot culverts. “It’s pretty rare now to build a crossing with a 30-foot culvert,” Flaagan said.
County Board approved a lease with School District 564 for the parking lot to the west of the justice center. No money will be exchanged as part of the lease, which starts June 1. County and school district officials had initially discussed a 50-year lease. However, Interim City Attorney Seamus Duffy was later told by school district leaders that they wanted a 20-year lease. After Duffy has determined what the district, in fact, wants, County Board Chairperson Neil Peterson may sign the lease.
County Board approved buying a one-ton Ford supercab pickup truck from Thief River Ford at a cost of $29,765. The county will have the ability to install a snowplow on the truck.
Commissioners approved buying 500 emergency preparedness guides at a total cost of $588.89. Emergency Management Director Erik Beitel plans to speak with third graders and distribute some of the guides to them. The other guides will be distributed at the Pennington County Fair.
County Board thanked Human Services Department staff for their 100 percent compliance with all Blue Plus contract and care coordination guideline requirements. Blue Plus primarily serves elderly individuals in the county.
The next County Board meeting is scheduled Tuesday, May 15 at 10 a.m. at the Pennington County Courthouse.