March 25, 2010 in Washington Voices

Cheney to rebuild Wren Pierson

Failed $5 million bond leads to council decision
By The Spokesman-Review

The Cheney City Council reluctantly decided Tuesday to start the process of rebuilding the Wren Pierson building.

The building sustained serious damage in January 2009 when heavy snow collapsed the roof in the multipurpose room. The building has been partially demolished since then and parks and recreation and its many programs had to be moved to different locations or postponed.

Also affected by the damage were the Cheney Food Bank, Cheney Outreach, clothing bank and the museum, which were located in the lower level of the building. Although that part of the building is still standing, each of these programs had to find either temporary or permanent locations.

The city asked voters to approve a $5 million bond last fall to start work on the first phase of a 50-acre park, including a new community center to replace Wren Pierson. That bond, which needed a supermajority of 60 percent approval, failed after receiving just under 57 percent approval.

Since then, the city has been looking at other options. In previous meetings, Simmons has told the council that the city needs to keep moving forward with a plan for the building in order to receive the insurance money for whatever the city decides. The city will also have to start paying $2,500 in rent for the temporary location of the department on First Street.

“I personally had a really hard time getting to this spot,” Simmons told council.

Simmons said he and the park board are making this recommendation based on the department’s immediate needs. Those include a need of a facility for community activities and programs, a facility for community service organizations, a gymnasium and athletic activity space, additional athletic fields, parks and recreation offices and an indoor shop and storage space for parks maintenance. This plan would fill all but the need for a gymnasium and athletic fields.

He said the insurance will cover the cost of rebuilding and bring it up to code as well.

“The idea of rebuilding the Wren doesn’t thrill me at all,” said Council member Annette Mather. She said the building is old, the downstairs rooms are in bad shape and the parking is bad, as well.

“It’s not going to make everybody happy,” Mather said.

She asked if the city had really thought about other options and questioned why this new plan is being set in motion now instead of sooner, since the city will now have to pay rent for the temporary offices of parks and recreation.

Mayor Tom Trulove and Simmons assured Mather they had looked at eight options for the building, but this plan is the one that is feasible. City Administrator Arlene Fisher said the city had also included the cost of the rent in its budget for the year.

The resolution approved by the council will allow the city to look for an architect to design the project.

“It’s not a Cadillac, but it’s a Ford with a new engine,” said Council member Graeme Webster.

The next Cheney City Council meeting will be held April 13.

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