Time to give up on community center

There is no more lipstick for the pig, as the saying goes. It’s time for the City of Custer to wave the white flag when it comes to the current iteration of the Custer Community Center. Luckily, it appears the current Custer City Council has done just that.
When the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for the center renovation came back from construction manager at risk well over budget, the city worked with the construction manager at risk, Ainsworth Benning, and design team to see if money could be saved by cutting some corners on the project. When the GMP came back revised and the money was still more than the city could spend, the writing was on the wall. Having the community center in the old Custer Elementary School on Crook Street was not meant to be. At least, not in the entire school as it stands.
It was 2012 when the city took ownership of the building from the Custer School District for next to nothing (we believe it was actually $1). The idea was a solid one—transform the old building into a community center that could house city hall, the YMCA, office spaces for rent, a playground—your imagination was the limit. The original timetable for the city and YMCA to be in the building was 18 months to two years. That was almost a decade ago. The original estimates for renovating the inside of the building were quoted at $400,000 to $1 million. The revised GMP came in at $4.9 million.
The building has been a money pit from the beginning. The city spent $88,000 on the boiler and exhaust system for the 1981 wing. A few years later, over $150,000 was spent to have a sprinkler system put in the building and for fire rating. Nearly another $100,000 was spent on building and designing a support system for installation of steel beams to help with joist support. This doesn’t take into account the hours upon hours spent by volunteers (led by Custer YMCA director Rex Jorgensen) doing demo within the building, or the cost to heat the building all these years. In the end, the building has become not much more than a glorified pickleball court.
That’s not the fault of any one person, and certainly not the fault of the current Custer City Council or Mayor Corbin Herman, who inherited the issue. It is admirable Herman and the council finally did something that should probably have been done a long time ago and pulled the plug on the project. It wasn’t getting any cheaper and was going to put Custer wildly into debt to get done. It was an exciting and lofty goal when it was envisioned in 2012, but as the years passed it became more and more clear that the city was simply throwing good money after bad.
So what now? There has been talk part of the building could be saved and the rest demolished through selective demolition. That could be a good way to at least recoup some of the money the city has poured into the building. There is also talk of razing the entire building and constructing a much smaller community center on the same land. The land is still there and still holds value. That’s a big positive through all of this.
It’s sad the project couldn’t continue as presented, but it’s pretty obvious it just wasn’t feasible. Yes, a lot of money and man hours appear to have now been wasted. What’s done is done. Let’s join together to help the city move forward, look ahead and get something done for the good of the city. Let’s put our money to good use instead of throwing it down a rathole that appeared to have no bottom.

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