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Decision due on auditorium

By Corene Brisendine

City commissioners plan to decide the fate of the Peace Memorial Auditorium at their 7 pm meeting Tuesday in the City Commission Room at City Hall.

Commissioners will either authorize Bruce McMillan Architects to complete the final design of the auditorium renovations as previously approved by the commission or direct the architect to study alternatives in a way that takes into account what opponents of the renovation see as the historic elements of the facility.

Several residents, among them World War II veterans, have led the fight to reverse city plans to eliminate the stage area as part of a renovation envisioned to add gym and office space. Opponents of the proposed change note that the structure was constructed as a memorial to World War II veterans, and should not be altered.

City manager Ron Fehr said the auditorium has had several improvements made to it over the years, including refinishing the gymnasium floor, replacing the stage curtains, updating the scoreboard and adding a handicap accessible platform in the fixed seating section. During earlier debates, there have also been discussions concerning the extent of use of the stage in recent years.

In addition to the auditorium, commissioners will also consider an agreement with artist Tim Ford for a sculpture at the roundabout at Bluemont Avenue and Fourth Street. Funding for the $64,400 project will come from a variety of sources, including money paid by McDonald’s as part of an agreement allowing it to move its Third Street restaurant to Fourth and Bluemont.

A second source of funding is the artist. In the contract, Ford proposed to make about 50 miniature sculptures, called maquettes, to sell to Manhattan residents. A portion of the maquette sales will go back to the city. If all 50 statues sold, the city would receive about $60,000 to fund the sculpture. Finally, the city has about $29,000 that can only be used for the roundabout. Fehr said if there is a surplus, the only funds that could be used for something other than the sculpture are those received from the sales of the maquettes. However, the contract states should the city have a surplus, excess funds could be used as seed money for another sculpture elsewhere in Manhattan.

Finally, commissioners will consider amending a portion of the McCall Landing Commercial Planned Unit Development to allow GTM Sportswear to build a retail building in the place of previously approved Orscheln Farm and Home store. The item was unanimously approved by the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board and recommends approval by the commission.

The meeting will also be televised on local cable channel 3.

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