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Council meeting packed for armory discussion

By Staff | Apr 10, 2014

Nearly 40 people filled every chair at City Hall on Monday with the majority in attendance at the city council’s regular monthly meeting to discuss and learn more about the future of the Rugby Armory.

The council heard from people in favor of a wood floor and others in favor of a surface more suitable to holding trade shows and sales. The current floor was installed in 2012, but the gym-flex tile surface hasn’t held up.

The discussion lasted nearly an hour and concluded with Ward 4 Councilman Arland Geiszler acknowledging that a compromise will require more research.

“Obviously, we need more info than we have tonight,” Geiszler said.

At the beginning and end of the discussion, Ward 1 Councilman Neil Lotvedt encouraged the community to bring their solutions to the council.

Rugby Homes and RV Center owner Gary Kirchofner held the floor for the longest duration of any non-councilmember and reiterated his opposition to a permanent wood surface.

“We’re so concerned about the cost of the floor and who’s contributing most to the building that we’re losing sight of what’s important,” Kirchofner said. “The amount of money the city receives directly (from sales) may not be a large amount, but, indirectly, it’s a huge amount that benefits everybody – so huge it’s hard to measure.”?Those in favor of a wood floor, stressed the importance of opportunity for the school and student-athletes. A tile floor, which would allow for big machinery to be driven inside, isn’t a forgiving surface to athletes, who can more easily suffer shin splints and other wear to joints.

“It’s a joke,” said Jon Nelson, Rugby resident and N.D. District 14 representative. “When it was a tile floor, kids were slipping all over. It’s embarrassing when people came to town for basketball games. Something needs to be done. We need to invest in our youth.”

Nelson also questioned whether the armory is a good fit for trade shows and suggested that businesses look into a Gooseneck Implement building near the museum.

“We’re speculating. We don’t know facts and whether it’s available,” said Shelley Block, executive director of the Rugby Area Chamber of Commerce. “The armory has to be for all of us. It gets congested, but it’s worked for all these years. We need that building.”

The option of a portable wood floor was debated at length. Kirchofner said he would work with the other trade shows and try to have shows in successive weekends, to minimize how often a portable wood surface would be removed and replaced.

Rugby Public Schools Superintendent Mike McNeff expressed gratitude to the city for the schools being able to use the armory for practices. McNeff prefers a wood floor, but dismissed the notion of a portable one.

“I don’t think you could remove it as much as you’d think,” he said. McNeff stated that venues like the Bismarck Civic Center have much more space to work with.

McNeff also said that due to a lack of space, the schools would still be in favor of utilizing court space at the armory, regardless of surface.

Jayme Berube questioned where in the armory the portable floor would be stored.

The council discussed the time it takes to remove and replace the floor and estimated between 30 and 60 man hours. City attorney Bill Hartl estimated that the work would take a minimum of two city employees over two days to remove the floor and another two days to replace it. Hartl questioned whether the armory could afford to have no activity for the estimated four days.

The issue is expected to be addressed again following more research from the city and input from the community.

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