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Wren Pierson building a total loss

Thu., Jan. 8, 2009

No injuries reported when Cheney community building determined unsound

The Wren Pierson Building, home of Cheney Parks and Recreation, Cheney Outreach, the Cheney Food Bank and the Cheney Historical Museum, has been declared structurally unsafe and it could collapse at any time.

“The Wren Pierson Building will need to be demolished,” said Arlene Fisher, city administrator. “We’re thankful that no one has been injured.”

Fisher said there are three main beams in the building and the building inspector said one of the beams had failed and the other two are failing.

“In the multi-purpose room the ceiling is sagging almost to the floor,” said Jera Donner, recreation supervisor. Donner said she and another employee of Parks and Recreation were at the building Saturday when Fire Chief Mike Winters and the building inspector visited.

She said they had enough time to grab the pictures from their desks before they had to leave. The staff has been able to re-enter the building to retrieve office equipment and other items needed to run the department, but since the pre-school programs are held in the multi-purpose room, many items had to stay there.

“It’s just stuff,” Donner said. “We’re glad no one got hurt.”

Fisher said the city is working to re-establish services from the Cheney Food Bank as soon as possible. She said Second Harvest Food Bank brought out a truck on Saturday to move the food stored there to other locations.

Second Harvest said those needing food assistance should contact the Medical Lake Food Bank or the Salvation Army in Spokane.

Joan Mamanakis, director of the Cheney Historical Museum, said organizers are in the process of finding a place to store the more than 10,000 artifacts collected over the years. She hopes to put some into the Fisher Building or City Hall. “We’re going to have to move out,” Mamanakis said.

She said members of the fire department were supervising while her neighbors from the food bank moved the food to trucks over the weekend.

Mamanakis added that this year celebrates the 125th anniversary of the city and museum volunteers had been gearing up to celebrate Cheney’s history. The loss of the Wren Pierson building will put a serious damper on their plans.

“Any minute now, it could come down,” she said. So far, nothing in the museum has been damaged.

The first story of the building was originally built in 1935 as a Greyhound Bus garage. In 1948, a second structure was built on top of the original. The school district once housed its maintenance department in the building.

Cheney Parks and Recreation has moved its offices to the stage in the auditorium of City Hall. Along with moving to a new home, Donner said she has been working hard to find places to hold the classes that used to be held at Wren Pierson.

“We’re not canceling any classes,” Donner said. She has been working with Eastern Washington University and Cheney Public Schools in order to find classroom space. She added that the staff is calling everyone registered for a class to keep them informed about locations.

The department’s winter brochure was released in December, and new classes are starting on Saturday. The department opened a hotline with information about program delays – 498-9251. Donner said staff members will answer the phone during office hours and there will be a recorded message after hours.

“We’re all trying to hang in there,” Donner said.

The loss of the building is due in part to the snow emergency in Cheney. Fisher said the city is still in a state of emergency and received help from the National Guard, who plowed arterials and were working to plow parking lots.

“They were fantastic,” Fisher said. “It gave our crews a break.” Snow crews in Cheney have been rotating 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, everyday since Dec. 17.

Once plans can be made, Fisher will be looking toward the future of the building.

“We will rebuild and come back bigger and better,” she said. “We are Cheney.”

Contact staff writer Lisa Leinberger at 459-5449 or by e-mail at lisal@spokesman.com.


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