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From Left Field

May 9, 2013

By BOB SHRALUKA
    One of the great purchases in the history of Adams County occurred when the county bought the former Decatur High School. At a low price of around $1 million, the county got what has now taken the place of the courthouse as the hub of county government activities ... plus a number of agencies which serve people.
    Now if county officials could just figure out what to do about a new home for superior court. But that's a story for another day.
    Residents of Decatur may some day in the future look back on the city's purchase of the onetime First State Bank building every bit as favorably as the deal that put the onetime school building under the county umbrella. For $25,000, the city has itself a two-story downtown building that is in quite-good shape save for some roof work that needs to be done.
    The city paid the same price for the onetime Holthouse Drug Co. building across the street and now, after some $147,000 for asbestos removal and then demolition, officials have an empty lot to go with the bank building. However it's decided to use the building, there will be renovation costs in addition to the roof repairs. Still in all, the city has made itself a couple of good deals.
    And as Mayor John Schultz revealed at the latest town hall meeting, the city is looking at a program called the Stellar Community Program for some possible funds to offset renovation of the building.
    How the bank building will be used remains up in the air, although ideas are plentiful. Patience, though, would seem to be a valuable commodity, as in take your time and do it right.

Two stuffed, antiquated buildings
    The city has two major needs: a new City Hall and a new police station.
    Each was built to house about half the people who now work in each building, and long before all the electronic gear required today.
    The police station, for example, was built during the Carl Gerber administration and will mark its 50th birthday on June 1 of this year. The consensus among officers who were on the force at the time is that they numbered 10; possibly 12.
    Jim Borders was chief when the station opened, but Grover Odle became chief not long afterward, on January 1 of 1964. He believes there were 10 officers at the time, plus three dispatchers.
    Today, when the department is fully staffed — which it is not at this time, with one potential officer at the training academy and one to hire — it has 17 officers. Plus an administrative assistant and and office administrator. All of them operating out of a building built for much smaller numbers — and far less equipment!
    "You people have to be sitting on top of each other down there," we said to an officer not long ago.
    "Oh, yeh; we are," he replied, matter of factly, with a chuckl.e
    City Hall is even older; much older. So much older that no one is quite sure exactly when it was built. (No, there is no cornerstone marker.) At one time it contained the police department; in fact, it did up until the current station was built. Even earlier, the story goes, the current City Hall was a fire station ... with horses.
    Once again, as government has grown — due in large part to the demands of the people it serves — City Hall has not.
    At one time, the city had a potential buyer for City Hall, if it was ever vacated. But that has gone away.
    Mayor John Schultz and city council seem committed to doing something about both situations. The key now is how to best utilize available funds (and what grant funds are out there), the empty building and empty space.

    
 

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