Centerfield Town Hall razed
By Doug Lowe
CENTERFIELD—Just two days after two different citizens asked the Centerfield City Council for time to look into options for saving the old city hall building, a backhoe was busily tearing down the historic structure, despite previous plans for both demolition and construction in the spring.
Stunned and upset by the sudden change in plans, Centerfield resident Teena Rigby told the Messenger, “The week before last, I was reassured by the city recorder that the building would not be demolished until sometime in the spring.”
At the city council meeting on Wed. Jan 8, Rigby presented the mayor and members of council with petitions bearing the signatures of 186 area residents opposed to destroying the 1909 school house that served as Centerfield’s city hall after the property was bought by the city in 1940.
“Up until the sudden demolition,” said Rigby, “the building bore a sign proudly stating it was built in 1909. Then, suddenly that history didn’t mean anything.”
Rigby’s presentation of the signed petitions to council was followed by brief remarks from Claudia Sanborn, a Gunnison resident who got her old home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In effect, Sanborn asked the council to give her, and others interested in historic preservation, “enough time to explore possible grants and other monies” so the old building could be preserved for historic purpose without hindering construction of a new city hall on a different site.
Given the fact that the city reportedly has an acre of land immediately behind the old city hall, where a new city hall could be constructed, it surprised Sanborn how little consideration was given to her proposal. And, on Monday, when Sanford received the startling news that demolition had begun already, she was at the county courthouse in Manti, researching the history of the land plat where the school had been constructed in 1909.
Calls to the Sanpete Messenger from other concerned Gunnison Valley residents raised concerns that the demolition appeared to be taking place without any apparent efforts to prevent toxic substances, like asbestos and lead paint, from being released into the air.
A subsequent phone call to staff in the asbestos program at the Utah Division of Air Quality revealed no record of the city or its demolition contractor, Madsen Excavation, filing the official documents required to verify that the old building had been checked by a Utah certified asbestos inspector, and that proper steps would be taken to mitigate any potential dangers.
“I am flabbergasted and depressed by what the city has done,” said Rigby, who recalls “I walked by that building as a child, and have seen it ever since. Now, suddenly, it’s gone.”
Sanborn, as a 22-year resident of Gunnison, doesn’t have Rigby’s emotional attachment to the destroyed building, but historic preservation is near and dear to her heart. “When I talked to the staff in the city’s temporary offices at the Gunnison Irrigation company, it was clear to me that they wanted to never again work in the old city hall again because they feared ‘black mold’ and other hazards,” she said. “But they could have had a new city hall and still kept the old building for other purposes like a museum or municipal library.”
When asked to explain why the city moved up its previous announced spring-time demolition timetable just days after citizens expressed objections to that plan, Mayor Tom Sorensen replied, “No comment.”