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Future of Grinnell Veteran’s Building in Question

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GRINNELL, Iowa -- The Veteran’s Commission in Grinnell is working to raise funds to reopen the closed Veteran’s Memorial Center. The building was closed in 2012 after asbestos was found inside. The city paid to remove the asbestos, but the removal process left the building in bad shape, along with heating and plumbing systems in need of repair.

“The building was built with the intention that it would be for the veterans,” said Tammy Kriegel, who is helping to lead the fundraising effort. "We have gone to Pizza Ranch and they give us a percentage of the take, plus we get all the tips.”

The city has not committed to helping with Veteran’s Memorial Building expenses, beyond the asbestos mitigation. The building needs around $1 million to get it ready for public use again.

“This really boils down to, what’s the long-term use for the building. If we’re going to use the building to honor veterans, what the building going to be used for,” said Russ Behrens, Grinnell City Manager. "I think the other argument is what the most appropriate way to honor veterans?"

The city is working on a $3 million project to upgrade Central Park when the veteran’s building is located. That project would do exterior landscaping all around the park, including the veteran’s building.

Veteran supporters say they are concerned over a lack of support from the city.

“I think more of my grandfather and great grand father who served in WWI and WWII, and I know there are many veterans here in town who have those same kind of memories of the people who really put their lives on the line. To not be supportive of that is very sad," said Teresa McCall, who chairs the Veterans Commission in Grinnell.

“Some people using the argument that somebody doesn’t have the same feelings toward honoring veterans as others,” said Behrens. "We have veterans on the City Council, all of us have veterans in our families, we have neighbors who are veterans."

The Central Park Project is set to begin construction this summer.