LINCOLN -- The city plans to demolish the community building and possibly replace it with a new facility.
The council first adopted an ordinance declaring Lincoln's community building on the square a public hazard. The council also approved an emergency clause so the ordinance would go into effect immediately. The building was constructed in 1934.
Mayor Doug Hutchens explained to council members at their Nov. 15 meeting the structural problems with the building and how it has deteriorated even more the past few months.
The city brought in a structural engineer to inspect the building, and Hutchens said he thinks the building is not safe to occupy.
"A snow load or a hard wind or a little earthquake, I'm afraid would bring it down," he said.
He noted the feasibility of repairing the building would be cost prohibitive because of the deterioration of the walls and other major problems. It would be a matter of tearing it down and putting up a new building, he added.
The city has canceled all events at the community building for the next year and already is considering changes to the annual Christmas on the Square on Dec. 17. In past years, patrons have picked up a free chicken dinner inside the community building. City staff is looking at other locations to hand out the chicken dinners.
Hutchens said the city is at a "crossroads" on a decision about the square.
The city will pay off the library bond issue in the spring, six years earlier than projected, and he proposed going to the voters to ask them to renew the 5/8 percent library sales tax for a new bond issue to renovate the square and construct a new community building.
Hutchens said he would like to get the council members' opinions on whether to move forward with the proposal to ask voters to renew the sales tax for the square.
Rhonda Hulse, city business manager, said a 5/8 percent local sales tax would pay off the debt for a $2.1 million bond issue over 20 years or a $2.5 million bond issue over 25 years.
Council member Johnny Stowers said he didn't believe the city had much of a choice, considering the building's condition. Stowers said the library building has some "mistakes" he doesn't want to see repeated with a new community building.
"We probably need to sit down and do a lot of planning," Stowers said. "I think we can come up with a decent design on a building and then figure in redoing the rest of the square while we're at it."
Hutchens added the city would apply for grants and applications would be more attractive if the city is backing most of the costs with local money.
Hulse said the council probably would need to pass an ordinance calling for a special election on the sales tax in February to have the election in May.
"The square is the city," council member David McBride said.
Hulse agreed, saying the building is rented out all the time for different events and by community members.
Council member Doug Moore made a motion to proceed with the plan and the council unanimously voted to move ahead with it.