Council has three good choices regarding old building

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The McCook City Council has a decision to make about the old public safety center, most recently the county "jail" before the new, proper county jail opened last fall.

Council members can sell and/or lease the building to an automotive detail shop, offer a free lease to a program that trains prisoners skills to work in the building trade, while building homes, or keep the building for storage -- or perhaps some other option will come up.

Each of the options has merits; the city would like to have the building off its hands and on the tax rolls, eventually. But, it might also be a good idea to use city resources to encourage job training while helping provide much-needed housing for our area.

Then again, city vehicles are expensive, and it would be good to be able to store them indoors, ready to use, in the old garage bays formerly occupied by fire trucks and ambulances.

Whatever the decision, it will be better than some that have been made, or not made, in the past.

Memorial Auditorium is mostly vacant, except for the Southwest Nebraska Community Theater set storage, construction and rehearsal. A fund-raiser a few years ago saw the installation of theater seats, but the women's retreat event that was the impetus behind that effort has since moved to a newer auditorium owned by the church that organizes the annual event.

Meanwhile, the new events center at McCook Community College offers an inviting venue for many events that might otherwise occur at the city auditorium. The Armed Forces Reserve Center also offers room for large events.

As we've written before, we would have preferred a combined city/county facility, but the voters didn't agree. Next time a major building program is proposed, however, we hope the discussion includes what is to be done with the structure that will be replaced.

While we're at it, let's take a look at the inventory of vacant buildings and property, both privately and publicly owned, and create a master plan for their use.

A plan may have to be be modified as we go along, but any forethought is preferable to random development.

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