ESCALANTE – Embarking on a new chapter of modernization, Escalante City will soon break ground on a new Community Center at the corner of 100 North and 100 West.
The new 5,200 square foot building, which is officially referred to as a Multi-Purpose Civic Center, will replace the old Escalante High School building, which was originally built in 1938. In recent years, since the new high school was built out on Highway 12 in 1987, the old high school building had been owned by the city, and served to house civic functions such as the city library, the Care & Share and the New Escalante Irrigation Company office.
Once the new Community Center is completed, the senior services will move from where they are now housed, across the street at the current Community Center, which is an even older building, constructed in 1928.
According to Louise Barnes, Escalante city council member in charge of buildings, it was the age and conditions of each of the old buildings that has led to the capital improvement project.
As Barnes explains, “[Mayor] Melani [Torgersen] has been working at the senior center for several years, and has been talking about conditions over there. As a council we really didn’t realize conditions were as bad as they are. There is rot in the floor boards in the dining area, drainage issues, sewer issues, and it’s costly to heat. The kitchen is too small for what they need to do. So they’ve really done the best they could over the years. Galley dining is not conducive to socializing. It’s flooded several times. The building has upkeep issues.”
“With those things in mind we thought it was time to get the seniors out of a moldy basement and into a brighter, airier, better place,” said Barnes.
The city went before the Community Impact Board (CIB) and secured funding and loans for the project, which is expected to cost $1,320,000.
Plans for the new Community Center have been completed by Jones & DeMille Engineering, and the logistics of moving the civic services housed in the old building have been completed. The old high school/city building was demolished this past Monday morning.
Removed were the fire station building on 100 North and the city-owned building on the corner up to and including the bathrooms and hallway of the “old gym.” However the gymnasium itself—which is still owned by the Garfield County School District–remains intact.
The old high school building’s demise caused some reflect on its service to the town, which includes graduating 50 classes of Escalante High School seniors between 1938 and 1988. Garfield County Commissioner Jerry Taylor, who went to high school there and graduated in the mid 1970s, said, “It’s been there as long as I can remember, it’s been there a long time. You know I really enjoyed my high school days there, but that building served its purpose and now we need to move on.”
Barnes also commented on the tired conditions of the building. “Ceiling tiles were falling, it was just old. Loading the Meals on Wheels from the back dock was difficult.”
Nonetheless, local architectural historian Harriet Priska, who took some final photos of the old high school in the fall, said, “It’s very sad for me to finally look at it with careful eyes and see all the marvelous details in the brick work, especially the three lines of brick that go entirely around the upper part of the buildings—and note that the corners are even splayed slightly outward above those three lines. Priska added that until now, the old high school building was a feature of the Escalante Walking Tour. “It was number 35 on the walking tour, but our post has been removed.”
And now so has the building.
Engineers Jones & DeMille were in Escalante on January 3rd, offering city officials a virtual reality walking tour of the new Community Center. The building plan is light and airy, and includes a large multi-purpose room with a stage in the front corner, a library and games area, a large stock room for the emergency food pantry, a large kitchen and adjacent dock for Meals on Wheels, and offices for Care and Share and senior services administration.
Barnes outlined the funding sources for the new building, which are: $300,000 from Garfield County; an additional $90,000 in in-kind services from Garfield County for demolition of the old high school and removal of debris; a federal grant from USDA Rural Development for $50,000; an in-kind donation of $20,000 in steel from JT Steel; a $600,000 grant from CIB; and finally, a $260,000 loan from CIB which the city will pay over 30 years. Barnes said the city is in good shape to make a $9,500 annual payment on the loan. She noted that while the project is fully funded, that they are looking for specific donations for items like natural rock work on the exterior and upgrades to furnishings inside.
If all goes as planned, the new Community Center will be ready to house the senior citizens services and Care & Share program by next fall.