Washington Auditorium

Washington City Council members are pondering what to do about much-needed improvements to the historic city park auditorium.

During their meeting Monday night, the council voted to table a decision on awarding a contract to install new doors on the building and directed Darren Dunkle, parks director, to take the issue before the park board this Thursday.

The low bid of $58,372 from Gildehaus Construction came in more than $27,000 over the amount budgeted to replace five doors on the building.

Dunkle told the council last week the existing doors — estimated to be about 40 years old — are beyond repair and need to be replaced.

The 2013-14 parks and recreation budget has $31,000 allocated for the project, but Dunkle said in his report last week that City Administrator Jim Briggs told him there are sufficient funds available to cover the difference.


Dunkle presented several options Monday that could bring the project within the budgeted amount.

One would be to wait to replace doors on the west side of the building which would cut the cost by about $11,000, Dunkle said.

Another would be to go with lower cost hardware rather than the standard for commercial/school buildings. That would save about $10,000.

Dunkle estimated that approximately $3,500 could be saved by switching from a continuous hinge to a three-hinge system.

Also, the cost could be reduced by about $2,600 by switching from a multi-pane glass door to a full glass door.

Other Issues

After the council asked Dunkle to take the matter to the park board, the discussion turned to other issues related to the auditorium which was built in the 1930s under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program.

Councilman Jeff Patke noted that the auditorium only generated $3,000 in revenue last year and now the city is proposing to spend more than $55,000 on doors. He asked if there are plans to renovate the structure.

Councilman Steve Sullentrup said he wants the building to be safe. He said the city spent $7,000 in one month to heat the auditorium which is not properly insulated.

“All the heat is going out through the roof,” Sullentrup said. “If we do this (doors) and get the roof insulated, what are our plans for the building?”

Briggs raised the issue of the door on the east side of the building which, now, is being secured with a padlock. He said his concern is that if something happens during a function or event that people could not exit through the east door.

“We rent out the building,” Briggs said. “But we’re not there (during an event).”

Dunkle said that the padlock is supposed to be unlocked while people are in the building.

In response to the amount of money the city makes renting the auditorium, Briggs noted that the “vast majority” of park facilities do not break even. “I don’t think it (auditorium) has ever made a dime,” he remarked.

Briggs said years ago, the city looked at renovating the building, but no action was taken.

Councilman Joe Holtmeier called the auditorium the “jewel” of the parks system. “If we tear it down, what are we going to do? Build another building?”

Patke said he is not pushing for tearing down the building. “But we need to know what we’re going to do with it.”

“Maybe we need to step back and take a better look at the facility,” Councilman Josh Brinker said.

Sullentrup said his main concern is the safety of the building and the need to get proper working doors.

Another issue raised was about the condition of the building’s roof.