The Fairfield Community Center is starting to sparkle as it is slowly renovated and refurbished.
Gone are the old, drafty windows. Gone is the chipped, peeling paint. Gone are the banners on the wall boasting of the Triangle Grange wins in the Rodent and Vermin Control contest in 1932, 1933 and 1934.
The center, on Main Street next to the post office, was the Triangle Grange until members sold it to the city in 2002. The declining membership could no longer afford to operate the aging building, which was constructed in 1936.
“What we’ve done up to this point is mainly infrastructure, all the hidden stuff that’s necessary,” said volunteer Carl Felgenhauer, who is overseeing the renovation efforts.
All the renovations have been paid for by donations. The effort got a kick start in 2004 when Wilbur-Ellis donated $10,000 to paint the interior of the building. The wooden dance floor was also refinished. New siding and windows soon followed, but then the effort stalled.
“It took a little lag until Carl got on board and helped us,” said Fairfield Mayor Ed Huber. “He’s been the front man working with the contractors. I think he’s got a passion.”
Felgenhauer plays down his efforts. “I’m just a retired farmer,” he said. “I care for the community, and I want to give back.”
Some walls have been moved and energy efficient lights have been installed. A handicap ramp was just built at the main entrance. There are new handicap-accessible bathrooms on the main floor and the basement. “We didn’t have any bathroom facilities on the main floor,” Felgenhauer said.
The work has been done as donations came in and fundraisers are held regularly. “Our main marketing has been word of mouth,” Felgenhauer said. “We do as we can.”
Next on the repair list is a leaky roof near the chimney, then the aging furnace in the basement that was originally coal-fired until it was converted to oil. “That’s probably our biggest expense,” said Huber, who notes that heating oil is about $4.50 a gallon now. “Come winter, I don’t know what we’ll do.”
Huber said that without the community donations, none of the work would have been possible. “We don’t really have money budgeted for this project and probably wouldn’t be able to if we wanted to,” he said. “With what it costs to heat it and maintain it, it’s just a losing entity. We’re really excited about improving it enough so we can promote it.”
The building is still in use, hosting events such as dinners and wedding receptions. Felgenhauer said the improvements have been well received by the community.
“I sense some community pride with this,” he said. “As the moneys come in, we’ll keep making improvements. We’ll keep pecking away at it.”