Lincolnville leaders aim to rally support for center

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JANET HAMOUS
If there’s a wedding reception, family reunion or graduation party in your future and you’ve been thinking about holding it in Lincolnville, you may want to dust off your hammer and attend a meeting in Lincolnville at 7 p.m., Jan. 22, to show your support for a new community center building.

A free meal will be provided before the meeting at 6 p.m.

That meeting will determine whether a new building will be partially funded by KANSTEP (the Kansas Small Towns Environment Program).

KANSTEP is designed to help small communities with major projects. It provides the materials and professional services for a project, and the community provides the leadership and volunteers to do the work

“They will provide 60 percent of the funds, and then the community provides the labor,” said Lincolnville City Clerk Jane Pigorsch. “We provide our 40 percent in sweat equity.”

Lincolnville Mayor Victor Burns said the community is in desperate need of a new building to replace the current community center.

“This community building is on the verge of condemnation,” he said. “The fire marshal did shut it down about a year ago. Last spring, we had to put two new entrance doors in to make it up to standards. They were very concerned with the condition of the building.”

A crack in the concrete floor runs the whole length of the building.

“This crack might not bother most people, but for someone in a walker, it is dangerous,” Burns said. “The north wall is in poor shape, too, and there is some settling.”

Burns said the building was built in the mid-1970s by the Centre High School carpentry class with money donated by local people.

“The main problem with the structure and the deterioration of it is that there were no stem walls built with the foundation,” Burns said. “The drainage problem has led to the north wall being in very bad shape.”

“Two to three years ago, we cut a ditch in the park here on the north side to get the water away from it and that has helped,” he said. “But it’s not feasible to fix this building. I wish it was -it’d be cheaper.”

When they realized it wasn’t feasible to repair the building, they looked at a community development block grant.

“To put up a building comparable to this size, the community would have had to put up between $80,000 and $100,000,” Burns said.

That kind of money just wasn’t available, he said, so they turned to other options.

The KANSTEP option seemed ideal, particularly when they saw what the Burns community was able to do through the program.

“Several of us city council members went down there and looked over Burns’ building one evening and we were very impressed with the design and layout of it and its usability,” said Burns.

To apply for KANSTEP assistance, they completed a pre-application form. Initially, they found the percentage of low to moderate income (LMI) households in the community was too low to qualify for the program.

A door-to-door survey was conducted within the Lincolnville city limits to gather accurate and up-to-date census information.

“We had to do a door to door survey to show them that we could meet this LMI,” said Pigorsch. “We had a 97 percent return.”

Their efforts paid off. The newly calculated LMI fell within the acceptable range and they were told the project met the requirements for consideration by KANSTEP.

They then sent out a plea for people who would be willing to volunteer their time and talents to the project.

“So far we’ve had 28-plus people sign up to volunteer,” Pigorsch said. “We’ve got a dirt contractor, electrician, plumber, general contractor, mason and a cement man. I’ve also had some inquiries from people interested in supplying materials-they can’t come over and actually do the hands-on work but they would be willing to work with us on materials.”

The Jan. 22 meeting will determine whether the project goes forward.

“Basically, we’ve been approved, but we’ve got to now show that we’ve got the interest of the people in the community,” said Pigorsch.

Marilyn Graham with the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing will attend the meeting on behalf of KANSTEP.

“She will explain the program to the individuals who are here, field questions, and basically lay out how the pages are going to be turned,” said Pigorsch. “She will look at the number of people who come to this meeting and see actually how much interest we have for volunteering.

“As of right now, there are funds available,” she continued. “If the interest is here, and if she looks through that list and sees that we’ve got enough people to cover the facets of building a building, then we go on ahead.”

Pigorsch said if the project were given a green light following the meeting, the next step would be for a state-appointed architect to meet with the community and begin making plans for the new building and the demolition of the existing building.

“Marilyn Graham said that when she leaves this meeting here on the 22nd, probably within two weeks’ time she could have an architect ready,” Pigorsch said. “Then it’s up to us to set a date when we can meet with the architect.

“She thought that by the first of May we should be able to get a demolition contractor in here to start demolishing this building, and then it will just fall into place from there,” she added.

Pigorsch said a core committee will be established to coordinate decisions that need to be made and serve as intermediaries between the community and others involved with the project.

Pigorsch and Burns said they see the new building being very similar to the current community center in terms of capacity and functionality.

The center has traditionally been used for large events such as graduation and wedding receptions, anniversary celebrations, family reunions, fund-raisers, soup suppers and community programs.

“I’ve heard the comment so many times that there’s not a need for that big of a building, but I’ve been in here two or three times for fund-raisers when you couldn’t find a place to sit down,” Burns said. “And we had every available table and chair out here. So it does get used.

“We need a building that will seat 250 to 300 people in the great room,” he added.

The current building holds 300 people.

“The building should be very similar to what we’ve got, because it’s going to be used for the same things,” Burns said. “We’ll probably incorporate a little bit more storage into this new building and a small kitchen.”

He said they are also considering including a safe room in the design that would provide shelter to area residents in the event of a tornado.

Air conditioning will definitely be on the list of features to be included in the design, Pigorsch said.

“When people want to have family reunions or wedding receptions or some special event during the summer months, the quickest ‘no’ you can get is when they ask if there’s air conditioning,” she said with a laugh.

Until the design is completed, they won’t have a good estimate of the cost of the project, Burns said.

“We know about in the neighborhood, but there are so many different aspects such as how many rooms you want,” said Burns. “The cost can go $100,000 either way real quickly.”

Everyone who is interested in the project is invited to attend next week’s meeting and show his or her support.

“It’s not just for city residents,” Pigorsch said. “It’s for the Lincolnville community.

“In northern Marion County, there is no building of this size to hold meetings in,” Burns added. “This community center sits on city ground, but it covers a wide area of people who utilize this building.”

Pigorsch said that anyone with questions or concerns about the project or the meeting should call her at 620-924-5746.

“A lot of people thing this is going to affect their taxes, but it is not,” she said. “It is strictly the community sweat equity that is going to fund this building.”

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