Posted 6/28/16 (Tue)
By Cecile Wehrman
Even before news of a $100,000 donation from The Bank of Tioga as seed money for a new community center was announced to the public last week, Tioga Economic Development Corporation President Chris Norgaard was spreading the news to Tioga city commissioners.
“I think it’s awesome, something that we need,” said Commissioner Ronda Davidson.
Norgaard explained the concept is to replace the existing Farm Festival Building and he sees that as something that can potentially happen on an “aggressive” schedule.
“We would probably start tearing that down this winter,” said Norgaard, erecting in its place a large steel building.
“We’d keep it simple, like a big steel shed, but heated and insulated -- a big space that we can add onto down the road and larger than the current Farm Festival Building,” Norgaard told commissioners.
Commissioner Heather Weflen agreed a bigger and more diverse facility is needed.
“We need something for the community, especially during the long winter,” she said.
“It definitely has served its purpose,” said Mayor Drake McClelland.
McClelland said the Farm Festival Building is costly to heat and maintain, plus “we need a little more room.”
He said community events and private ones such as wedding receptions frequently pack the facility.
If more space were available, “I think a lot more people would utilize it.”
Norgaard said the EDC will spearhead fundraising and will be seeking public input on what people would like to see go into the building.
He estimated the cost at maybe $2.2 million, just for a first phase, with hopefully more to come in the future.
“If we do this right, we’ll be able to add on,” he said. “We need to come up with what the public wants, what it’s going to cost to build it, get some drawings.”
Once a solid plan is on paper, Norgaard said they can take it to the North Dakota Community Foundation, the Tioga Fund and other entities to look for grants or low interest loans.
Private donors will also get involved.
“When they see some actual costs that might make sense, I think they’ll step up,” he said.
Davidson made a motion, which passed, to indicate the city’s support of the concept and the need to have Norgaard move forward with planning and public input sessions.
McClelland said commissioners have discussed in the past the possibility of a facility that could expand to hold other community programs -- such as a library.
An indoor pool or an ice rink are other items Norgaard said have been on the community’s wish list, but those aren’t things that can be tackled initially.
It will be important, McClelland said, that the city have some input into the new facility, since it will be up to the city to maintain it and pay utilities.
Before fundraising gets off the ground, Norgaard said the EDC can also visit with groups in other communities, such as in Crosby and Watford City, where major projects have been possible after successful community fund drives.
“We can find out how they did it, what they did, what they learned as far as do’s and don’ts,” he said.