The La Cygne City Council voted to stop renting out the La Cygne Community Building during its meeting on March 1. (Journal file photo)
LA CYGNE - The La Cygne City Council last week took the first step in transforming the city-owned La Cygne Community Building into a part of City Hall. The council voted to stop taking reservations for renting the building, which has been central to community events for decades.
The measure passed on a narrow 3-2 vote.
With the completion of a second public-use space at the La Cygne Library and community room at Labette Bank, rentals of the La Cygne Community Building have fallen off dramatically. In 2021 the building was rented out 12 times in addition to use as a polling place and a venue for band and choir performances during the Christmas on Broadway event.
The council had already shifted its twice-a-month meetings to the building as a precaution during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But as guidelines have eased, council meetings continue to be held in the building.
City Clerk Jodi Wade has also said recently that the city’s police department has outgrown its space in City Hall. Expansion into the community building, which is adjacent to City Hall, would help relieve that problem.
During a meeting last month, Wade also said that bringing internet service into the community building would be helpful when presentations were given with charts or other visual aids. Last month because of threatening weather, the council had a live-streaming report from one of its engineers in Manhattan that was conducted on a laptop.
In preparation for the discussion about the community building, Mayor Debra Wilson asked council members to write suggestions on what should be done with the building.
Renting out a portion of the building or stop renting it out.
The building needs to be remodeled and brought up to code.
Adding a door between City Hall and the community building.
Upgrade restrooms and replace current kitchen with a kitchenette.
Reconfigure the space to have a courtroom and council meeting room with a secure room for executive sessions or court interviews.
Just renting out the back portion of the building.
Install a new heating-cooling system.
Councilman Jerome Mitzner suggested that the city install capacity that would allow for use of an overhead display so documents and visual presentations could be shown. He said that it would be good if meetings could be live-streamed for viewing by city residents.
He also suggested moving toward paperless meetings by allowing council members and staff to connect laptops to the internet.
Both Wade and Police Chief Tina Fenoughty talked about the inadequacy of the current facilities for the city’s police department.
Wade pointed out that the current space, which is adjacent and open to the other city offices does not allow for privacy during interviews that should be confidential. That is particularly a problem when dealing with juveniles.
She also said that office workers should not have access to the evidence room.
Fenoughty said that her department was out of storage space.
Wade said another problem is setting up and taking down the council’s meeting room whenever the community building was rented out.
She pointed out that a recent rental just before the council meeting had staff having to move things around to accommodate the rental and then moving them back in time for the meeting.
She said the council needs an established meeting place.
Councilman Keith Stoker suggested that the city just take one move at a time. The first step: Stop renting the building out.
That should allow city staff to start storing non-critical items in the building.
Wade told the council that the city had committed use of the building in March, and needed to honor those commitments.
On a split 3-2 vote, the council decided to stop further rental of the community building except for those reservations that have already been made. Councilmen Mitzner, Stoker, and Thomas Capp voted for the measure, and David Brenneman and Danny Curtis voted against it.