PI library considers tax to buy Grambau center

News Photo by Crystal Nelson More than two dozen community members packed into the Rogers City branch of the Presque Isle District Library to learn about the fate of the Grambau Center. The library board is considering purchasing and renovating the building, but will need a renovation millage to do so.

ROGERS CITY — It was crowded at a public meeting on Wednesday at the Presque Isle District Library’s Rogers City location, where more than two dozen community members packed into the library’s small meeting room to learn library officials are beginning the work needed to purchase the Grambau Education Center and likely must pursue a millage to do so.

The center, located at the corner of 4th Street and Huron Avenue, once served the community as a high school. The building is still owned by the Rogers City Area Schools, although it has been sitting vacant for several years.

Officials estimate it would cost the library nearly $8 million to renovate the Grambau center and nearly $500,000 a year for operational costs, such as staffing, maintenance, utilities and supplies.

Dennis Jensen, principal owner and architect of the Grand Rapids-based firm c2ae, said the building is well-constructed and, for the most part, in great shape. He said that, because the building is unheated, moisture and cold have caused “a little bit of damage inside.”

Jensen said the main floor has the capacity for the 150 pounds per square foot that is needed for the books and the shelving, but that the second floor does not. He recommended the second floor be used for offices, meeting rooms, a makerspace, or a business incubator.

“It’s a gem in Rogers City. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “Don’t destroy it.”

Jensen also recommended the library put a capital fundraising committee together to help raise funds that would offset the total cost of the renovation.

Library Director Amber Alexander plans to organize a capital fundraising committee for the library board to approve during its next meeting in May.

Alexander said the library is considering the renovation and relocation of the library because it is running out of space. She also said the discussion of the milage coincides with the library’s operational millage, which is up for renewal in November 2020.

She said the public needs to understand that both of the millages go hand-in-hand — that they can’t vote to support the renovation millage and then vote not to support the operational millage, otherwise there would be no way for the library to move forward without the funds to operate.

Ultimately, Alexander said the decision of whether the library would go for a millage is the responsibility of the board.

“They now have the knowledge and numbers, the community has the numbers, and I would hope that at the May board meeting we can make some decisions on moving forward with fundraising and the millage,” she said.

Devin Pommerenke, president of the Rogers City Area Schools Board of Education, said the school board has told Superintendent Nick Hein that one of his goals is to get the Grambau center off of the district’s books this year.

Pommerenke said the board on Monday conducted a first reading of a policy change that would allow the district to dispose of real property in any manner it sees fit for the good of the community.

Pommerenke said the board has done its due diligence and found it would cost the district no less than $5 million to demolish the building, which would also cost the community. He said the value of the vacant property after that would be nothing and everybody would be sad.

“We would look forward to discussing a purchase agreement and doing what we have to do to make sure this community becomes a safer, smarter, better place to live,” he said.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.