LIMA — With the announcement of a potential sales tax plan that would raise $35 million over 10 years to be used to improve county facilities, restoration of the Allen County Memorial Hall remains a low priority project.
Built in 1908 and largely replaced in purpose by the Veterans Memorial Civic & Convention Center in 1984, Allen County Memorial Hall was deemed unsafe by Allen County Commissioners in 2014 and has remained “mothballed” and closed off from the public since.
Although the front lobby and office space has largely maintained its grandiose appearance, the functionality of the building has seen better days. Repairs to the roof are necessary to curb water damage, and if the building were to be brought up to par, the old boiler system would need to be replaced. Such extensive repairs would take funds away from other capital improvement projects — ones necessary for the running of the county government, Commissioner Cory Noonan said.
“Our focus is on the other structures — our courthouse and jail, our elected officials and our employees — and ensuring these facilities are around for decades to come,” Noonan said. “The majority of our buildings are well over 25 years old, so the need for facilities is pretty immense.”
The last major examination of Memorial Hall happened in 2015, when the Council for the Arts of Greater Lima paid an engineering company to put a number on the cost of renovation and demolition. Repairs were estimated to cost between $520,000 and $4.4 million, depending on the level of restoration, and demolition was estimated to cost $3 million. No major actions, however, have been taken by the county or the larger community since that time, besides keeping the public from using the potentially dangerous facility.
“The difficult action was a few years ago when it was determined it was suited that the public wasn’t safe to be in there anymore. Today, we are focused on these other structures,” Noonan said.
Executive Director of the Council for the Arts of Greater Lima Bart Mills said finding the people capable of keeping Memorial Hall open, safe and sound continues as the county pursues its new goals — the construction of a new Allen County Juvenile Detention Center, a new County Engineer’s Office facility, new county administrative offices and renovations to the Allen County Courthouse.
“It’s a long process,” Mills said. “We need to get the right people at the table and raise a few million dollars.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.