Living Memorial Gets Reprieve

The Manhattan City commission was involved in yet another debate concerning a decidedly divisive topic during Tuesday night’s executive session.

To be or not to be… that is the question concerning the renovation of city hall to house a new Parks and Recreations office, and possible renovations to the Peace Memorial auditorium.

Commissioner Rich Jankovich says the primary focus of the renovation is the relocation of the Parks and recreations office into city Hall to gain efficiencies, and provide better service to the community.

However, the planned renovations continue to spark controversy as several community members rush to protect what they see as a city treasure, and a memorial to World War II veterans. Some of the concerns from the city commission involve the cost of renovating the Living Memorial Auditorium, and the added complexity for the project.

Community member Randi Dale says she understands the need for private involvement to perhaps help with renovation to the living memorial, but she is taken aback by the direction of commission as they debate the latest step in consideration of a consultation on the project. Dale believes there may be something rotten in the city of Manhattan, and is wary of the focus on the parks and recreation relocation without weighing the impact on the memorial.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh shares some of Dale’s concerns, and believes the city needs to ensure it is taking proper stewardship of the memorial. McCulloh says infrastructure items such as airconditioning, and seating should be some of the requirements of maintenance by the city.

In the end city staff and consultants assured the commission the contract for the initial designs could cover any questions of the costs of renovations with or without renovating the auditorium. The commission unanimously voted to contract with consultants to vet their options as plans move forward for renovations. Commissioner Butler says he hopes to have the results on a ballot in November.

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Meanwhile The commission passed the first reading of an ordinance amending the Manhattan urban comprehensive plan to adopt the Wildcat Creek floodplain management plan. Those measures include expanding countermeasures to help mitigate flooding, and damage to the community.

Several community members, and very vocally former mayor Loren Pepperd, expressed concern over what the floodplain management plan would do for appraisals in the future. Commissioner Rich Jankovich says after consulting with underwriters there is no legal concern as they only deal with current environmental factors. However, Jankovich says he realizes appraisers will do their own judgements on whether or not to include the information in their own appraisals. The first reading of the ordinance passed unanimously, and Jankovich thanked those that have worked on the project over the past few years.