The May 27 issue of the Dispatch included an article covering the rehabbing of an abandoned Wendy’s for use as a kitchen to provide food for Meals on Wheels and senior centers under the auspices of Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens. I was honored that they attached my name to it as a reward for long service on the PGCSC Board of Directors.

Right under that article was a story about the city of Coolidge holding an event at their renovated arts center. The conversion of Wendy’s and the Coolidge HS auditorium triggered some thought of the many conversions and saving of older buildings in Casa Grande in which I have been involved. Examples: The Presbyterian Church now is our historical society, the old high school to City Hall, City Hall to the Main Library, the old library to the senior center. This was done as an action of the City Council, under the direction of our public works director and later mayor, Bob Jackson. The council also accepted title to the Woman’s Club and rehabbed it.

As a council member I felt that we needed to consider rehabbing the old high school auditorium. As a result, the city’s finance director, and now city manager, Larry Rains notified me that the city had $2 million of uncommitted funds, which if the council so desired could be used for such a project. I presented it to the council. They approved and instructed Bob Jackson to find us an architect. He did, plans were drawn, council approved the plans, and plans were put out to bid. The city received a good bid at $2 million. But the motion to accept the bid was defeated on a 4-3 vote.

Now what? The building is still there. The plans are still at City Hall.

I would like to see a citizens committee formed to recommend to the City Council the fate for the $25 million building (my estimate) before it is destroyed by time or decision. I, of course, would like to see it rehabbed as an arts and convention center per the existing plans if this is viable.

Once this is decided, pro or con, I would like to see the council authorize a complete study of city property surrounding City Hall. This would include the senior center, library, Peart Park, police station, fire station, auditorium, gymnasium (formerly Boys & Girls Club), City Court and perhaps include the surrounding neighborhood.

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Jim Norris is a former member of the Casa Grande City Council and longtime civic leader.

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