HANFORD — In an emergency action, the Hanford Veterans Memorial Building was closed and the fate of some events held at the building are up in the air.
At the Nov. 21 Hanford City Council meeting, Council discussed an emergency agenda item involving the Veteran’s Memorial Building, which sits next to the Hanford Civic Auditorium.
City Attorney Bob Dowd said information regarding the building’s roof was brought to light from the City’s public works department. Dowd said the roofing structure was “suspect at best” and Council unanimously decided the building would immediately close on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
“The building, of course, is owned by the County and the City will inform the County of this recent information that has come about and will see what the County wants to do with it,” Dowd said.
On Monday, City Manager Darrel Pyle said after both the Fox Theater and Kings County Bowling alley had their ceilings collapse in 2014, the Council authorized structural engineers to evaluate all of the downtown buildings that the City rents or owns and that had similar constructions to those buildings.
After the evaluation, the engineers told City officials that the Veterans Building had bowstring roof trusses similar to the theater and bowling alley and was suspect to failure, Pyle said.
He said the engineers told City officials to keep their eyes on the building; so every year the City had the building supervisor inspect the attic.
During the most recent inspection, Pyle said the building supervisor noted “something looked like it had moved.”
Fortunately, Pyle said, structural engineers were inspecting the Old Courthouse for a new heating and air system, so the supervisor asked if they could look at the Veterans Building as well.
When the structural engineers looked at the roof, Pyle said they noticed something looked wrong.
Pyle said a third engineer, considered an expert on roofs, was brought in to look at the roof that very morning of the Council meeting date on Nov. 21. He said the engineer concluded that the roof was not operating properly and was subject to failure.
Because the City didn’t want anyone to get hurt if the process to close the building took too long, the item was added to the council meeting as an emergency and all five Council members voted to close the building immediately.
The very next day, Pyle said he met with county officials, who corroborated the information with the engineers and are in the process of figuring out what to do next.
Two groups that regularly use the building are the American Legion and Hanford Senior Citizens Inc.
Senior Citizens Inc. President Gail Soto said right now, bingo has been moved to the old Goodwill on Lacey Boulevard. She said as far as she knows, board meetings and luncheons for the seniors and the American Legion will now all be held at the Goodwill building.
“It’s going pretty good,” Soto said. “It’s not too bad. We have flood lights and some generators.”
As far as other events, where those will be held is still up in the air, Gail said. She said the organizations weren’t given much notice and there are too many events going on at the same time to find a place for them all.
In fact, Senior Citizens Inc. is supposed to have an event Friday and members are scrambling to find a way to not have to cancel it, especially because the food is all paid for.
“If anyone would like to donate a space or a building, let me know,” Gail said. “We’ll take a church or a hall, as long as it’s ADA compliant.”
Seniors Citizens Inc. has around 150 members and is expecting around 100 people for the Friday luncheon, which will also double as a board meeting and election, Soto said. She said she doesn’t want to let anyone down because it is one of the favorite events of the year.
She said the organization holds 81 events yearly and is a little worried about all next year’s events.
“I don’t know where I’m going to place everybody,” Soto asked. “It’s hard to schedule.”
All the organization’s planned dances will be moved to the old Goodwill building; except the dance that will take place on Wednesday, which will be at the Civic Auditorium.
Because the building gets used a lot for various events, Pyle said it was important to find new venues for those events. He said one solution is opening up the Longfield Center in the morning to be used when necessary.
As of right now, Pyle said the ball is in the County’s court to decide what course to take from here.
As far as he knows, Pyle said he believes a solution can be found to fix the roof. However, even if everything goes smoothly, he said it would be at least a year before the Veterans Building is inhabitable again because of the time involved in the design, bid and contract process.
“I figure we won’t be back in the building in 2018,” Pyle said, adding he’s hopeful for a 2019 return.