City council orders Armory environmental study

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Benson’s City Council and Chief of Police Ian Hodge (at left) toured the Armory building last Tuesday night trying to get an idea of how it would work for a new police deparment, city hall, or both.   From left are Hodge, City Manager Rob Woflington, Director of Finance Glen Pederson, Council Members Terri Collins, Stephanie Heinzig, Sue Fitz, Mayor Gary Landmark and Jack Evenson.
Fitz, at left, and Council Members Stephanie Heinzig, Mayor Gary Landmark, Terri Collins, and Jack Evenson were at a special meeting Tuesday night considering city hall and police building options.

Benson’s council faces multiple choices, none of them cheap, as it wrestles with how to upgrade or replace city hall as well as find a new home for the police department.

It is weighing options for housing city hall and the police department in the same building, as they are now, or having them in separate locations.

The costs, and they are very preliminary rough estimates, for the various options for city administration and police facilities are:
 

Project Use Cost estimate
City hall remodel Admin & police $1,721,000
New city hall Admin only $1,300,000
New city hall Admin & police $2,012,500
Benson Armory Police only $1,157,500
Benson Armory Admin & police $2,457,600
Loen Electric Police only $388,000

National Guard Armory options

Benson’s National Guard Armory has been considered a possible site for the city’s police department as well as city hall. However, those plans may need adjusting depending on what an environmental and structural study of the building finds.

While discussing the building’s potential as well as its possible liabilities during a special city council meeting last Tuesday night, council members decided to walk the half block to the Amory for a closer inspection. What they found was not encouraging.

Built in 1927, the Amory has old office space on the main floor at the front of the building with a large gymnasium behind it. Sometime after 1927, garage space was added on the north side of the building. There is an upper floor that has a non-functioning kitchen and what used to be the mess hall for the National Guard.

It’s the basement that is in what some might consider frightening shape.

It is dank with dehumidifiers running constantly. Paint, possibly containing lead, is pealing off the walls in large pieces. There are asbestos-wrapped pipes. Flat patches of mold can be seen on the walls and in the old firing range room patches of mold grow several inches off the wall. In the firing range, a long narrow concrete corridor used by National Guardsmen and for youth gun training classes long in the past, remnants of lead from shells eats away at the walls.

Another concern with the main structure is the strength of the interior walls and support pillars that lie between the stucco exterior and the walls on the inside of the building.

It has been estimated that to remodel the Amory for use as a new police department would cost $1.157 million. That estimate came before the city council and staff took their tour of the building.

Benson’s police department needs to get out of its current space in the basement of city hall and the sooner the better, Chief of Police Ian Hodge told the council at a special meeting in early October. “It is not habitable space,” he said. Water is seeping in through the walls and there is mold growing in the walls....

 

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Pictured, top: Benson’s City Council and Chief of Police Ian Hodge (at left) toured the Armory building last Tuesday night trying to get an idea of how it would work for a new police deparment, city hall, or both.   From left are Hodge, City Manager Rob Woflington, Director of Finance Glen Pederson, Council Members Terri Collins, Stephanie Heinzig, Sue Fitz, Mayor Gary Landmark and Jack Evenson.

Pictured, bottom: Longtime City Council Member Sue Fitz thought she had retired last year, but with the resignation of Jonathon Pogge-Weaver she has been called back to duty until a special election in January decides who will fill the vacancy. Fitz, at left, and Council Members Stephanie Heinzig, Mayor Gary Landmark, Terri Collins, and Jack Evenson were at a special meeting Tuesday night considering city hall and police building options.

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