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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Ideas for future of former high school considered at meeting

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

BENTON -- Funding sources, renovation costs and building usage were among the top areas of concern as members of the Benton community gathered Monday night at the Scott County Courthouse to brainstorm about the future of the former Benton High School building.

Among those present at the town hall meeting were about 15 representatives of the Benton Chamber of Commerce and Scott County Historical Society as well as Scott County Developer Joel Evans and members of the general public.

"I didn't really know what to expect," said Jeff Scherer, treasurer of the Benton Chamber of Commerce, about the meeting. "Someone made the comment about not many people showing up -- but I was really pleased."

Although many ideas were given, who or what will locate in the building remains unknown, Scherer said.

"Hopefully the Benton Riverside Regional Library will be interested in using it. They just signed a five-year lease and if they do decide to move in there (in the future), it would be nice to have something permanent," Scherer said. Other ideas for uses of the building include making a kitchen and banquet room, public meeting room or museum; housing businesses; or restoring the building to become part of the Scott County Historical Society.

"The historical society is interested in using a part of it and helping to restore it," Scherer said.

Scherer said Evans offered assistance for locating and applying for grants. Although the not-for-profit Benton Community Betterment Corp. and the Chamber plan to get official estimates, the costs to restore the building could be between $250,000 and $500,000, Scherer said.

Previous estimates from years past indicated the building's woodwork needed restoration with new concealer or stain.

"And if we put it on the national register, we'll have to keep it the way it was built," Scherer said.

That means the plaster walls will be patched with plaster instead of today's top choice, drywall.

"The bathrooms aren't usable and the building is not infested with asbestos but it does have some so that would need to be taken care of," Scherer said. Brick tuck pointing, or replacing bad mortar with new, and window replacements are among other work that would have to be done on the building.

Currently the Chamber and Benton Community Betterment Corp. have the same members, but are two separate corporations, Scherer said, adding the Benton Community Betterment Corp. would like to add more members.

"We're hoping people who have an interest in the building or the community are interested in joining that organization," Scherer said.

A date for project completion is unknown. "There's enough interest I think something will happen," Scherer said.

Another meeting with plans to tour the building is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16.