During Wednesday's meeting of the Common Council of the City of Brazil, the first of two public hearings were conducted, allowing the public the opportunity to formally comment on the proposed project of converting the building into a community center.
Kenna Consulting and Management Group, Inc., Indianapolis, Grant Administrator Donna Anderson informed the council, and those in the standing-room only audience in the council chambers, the city would be applying for the $500,000 grant on behalf of S.O.S.
"The grant is from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, under the Community Focus Fund program, and at least a $56,000 local match is required," Anderson said. "S.O.S. is still trying to raise the funds and collect donations, and they will take out a loan for the difference if they fall short."
Anderson added the rehabilitation will be in the gymnasium section of the building only, and presented a preliminary sketch of the finished product, which was created by Brenner Design, Indianapolis.
Brenner Design Graduate Architect Rick Rush said the structure itself is in good shape and outlined some of the plans included in the scope of work.
"An upgrade of the HVAC system, particularly in the heating portion is one of the first priorities, along with re-roofing," Rush said. "Also, the current ramps on the northeast corner of the building will be torn out and returned to its original state."
He added the building would still be in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility guidelines with a new ramp to be installed leading into the entry point on the southeast side of the building, along with a mechanical lift inside.
"We will also be utilizing the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for assistance in repairing the windows on the building," Rush said.
S.O.S. Director Jenni Chamberlain also explained some of the future plans.
"The heart of our purpose is to give kids a place to go, and we also plan to install a full kitchen to be able to feed children breakfast, lunch and dinner for free during the summer," she said. "We want this to be more than just a community center. We want it to be a home for many kids to find love and be cared for."
After opening the hearing up for public comments, local officials took the opportunity to praise S.O.S. for making the effort to restore a building treasured by the community.
"It's at a point where the state of the building was either going to go uphill or downhill," City Attorney Bob Pell said. "If it had continued to go downhill, the city would have to bear the responsibility of tearing it down, which we would have hated to put that burden on the residents. However, with S.O.S., things can only go uphill."
Ward 1 council member Brad Deal added, "When I was growing up, the gym was almost like a second home for me, and I applaud S.O.S. for its efforts in the city with our youth. I'm just glad to see something being done with the place and look forward to the positive influence S.O.S. will continue to have."
Rush said the grant would ensure all the primary needs of the building would be met, but additional funding would be needed to make further improvements.
Anderson added she is in the early stages of establishing a fund through the community foundation for the collection of donations.
A second public hearing will take place during the council's February meeting. Anderson said the application deadline is March 18, with award announcements set for May 27.
In other business during Wednesday's meeting, the Common Council of the City of Brazil:
* Suspended the rules to pass ordinances on the first reading to vacate a total of five alleys and portions of Knight Street and Pine Street. Attorney James Deal, who presented the ordinances, told the council no utilities will be affected, and there were homes on top of the platted portions of the streets,
* Approved the first reading of a personal property tax abatement for Morris Manufacturing, with a tentative five-year term attached. The abatement, which is up for final action in February, would be for new equipment being purchased by the company,
* Made initial approval to create a policy, suggested by the State Board of Accounts, to allow for the reimbursement of the use of private cell phones by city employees at a rate of $10 per week. Clerk-Treasurer Karen McQueen told The Brazil Times the city has approximately $5,000 appropriated for cell phone costs on its current plan, and this policy could save about half that amount,
* Approved the transfer of two Neighborhood Stabilization Program properties (516 W. Kruzan St., and 522 W. Kruzan St.) to the Brazil Housing Authority to be used as rental properties, and
* Re-appointed Pat Heffner, Bill Lovett and Stacy Gibbens to the Brazil City Plan Commission and Gibbens to the Economic Development Commission.
The next meeting of the Common Council of the City of Brazil will be 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, in the Council Chambers at City Hall.