â�?�?It turned out better than we had hopedâ�?�? Vermillion citizens help dedicate new city hall By David Lias
Plain Talk Ted Muenster, the master of ceremonies at the April 30 dedication of Vermillion's new city hall, noted that the process that helped the new structure become a reality contained a spirit that has been present in the community since it was founded 150 years ago. Following a Missouri River flood in the late 1800s that nearly wiped out Vermillion, townsfolk decided to move to higher ground. "People decided not to let their community die, and they relocated it on the bluff overlooking the river valley where we stand today. Now, during our sesquicentennial year, we honor their pioneering spirit, and those who followed them in building our community by dedicating this new municipal center," Muenster said. The new city hall, he said, is expected to serve "a driving community for decades to come, including the city bicentennial in 2059. As this handsome building is a striking statement of confidence in our community's future, so is Vermillion Now!, our city's first comprehensive marketing program lead by private funding. Vermillion is on the move once again, this time not in the wake of a natural disaster, but in a renewed belief that our best years are yet to come," Muenster said. Special touches made the ceremony memorable. Tony Henderson and Andrew McCann of Boy Scout Troop #66 raised the U.S. flag, the South Dakota flag, and a banner specially designed for the Vermillion community for the very first time on three tall flagpoles located near the new building's front entrance. As the flags were whipped about by Thursday's stiff wind, the third grade class from Jolley Elementary School lead those in attendance in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The ceremony also included musical selections by vocalist Philip Munkvold and pianist April Sun, both of Vermillion High School. "It is significant once again that the citizens of Vermillion have demonstrated their faith in their city and its future, and have done so by providing such a fine public facility," said Roger Kozak, former city alderman and mayor of Vermillion. Kozak noted that the history behind the new city hall building is almost as unique as the history of the Vermillion community. "Plans for a new building or a renovated building were circulating for several decades. Mayors and council members have discussed the need for a new or renovated city hall over and over again. When I first joined the city council, I was told of the structural problems, the accessibility problems, the functional shortcomings of the (old) city hall, and the list went on and on." City hall, Kozak said, has been the topic of several city facility studies and several community reviews. "One thing that we have learned is that good things apparently do take time because it was not until the turn of the century that the topic received due attention," he said. The new city hall, Kozak said, truly is a community building. "Each of you who worked in any way toward seeing this building become a reality did so because of a caring heart. We know that those who gave of their time and talent did not do so because of recognition, but did it to permit the city to obtain the best possible city hall to serve the citizens of our community," he said. Kozak noted that the new building became a reality following the hard work of the city hall building committee and many volunteers. They worked countless hours, he said, to see the building project through to completion. "Those who were part of this in any way carry with them the satisfaction of a job well done," he said. "This city hall was built as a product of the ideas and shared vision of many community members. This city hall was built to reflect not only a very beautiful design, but a very functional design. This city hall was built when people dared to dream of this glorious day, and this city hall was built and now stands as a building that causes the spirit to soar — a building that enthralls all who enter it. This is truly a community building." The city hall citizens committee, chaired by Bob Fuller, began its work in March 2004. "The purpose of that committee was to study the needs of a new or refurbished city hall," he said. "The committee hired an architectural firm… and after many, many meetings and public forums, we finished our work in August of 2005, and made a recommendation to the city council to build a new city hall." The city council formed a committee of its own, to study the recommendations it had received. "The council committee recommended removal of the old city hall, and the construction of a new building which we are dedicating here today," Fuller said. "By my calculations, it has taken us five years, literally dozens and dozens of meetings, and six months of construction to get where we are today." The building that the new construction replaced had served as Vermillion's city hall for 87 years. "This new building is our sesquicentennial legacy project, and it our hope that it will be used much longer than another 87 years," Fuller said. "This is certainly a dream come true," Mayor Dan Christopherson, the final speaker at the dedication ceremony, said. "I think it was about 19 months ago when a lot of us were in this very same location when we did the groundbreaking ceremony in September of 2007." The mayor and his wife, Gloria, who live only a block down the street from the new city hall, were easily able to keep tabs on the construction of the building. "I think it turned out better than we had hoped," he said. "It's just amazing." A poor foundation in the old city hall was the main cause of many of its problems. The new city hall has a much stronger foundation, Christopherson said, using both literal and figurative terms. "Future generations won't have to worry about the foundation on this building," he said. "And the fact that we have our third-graders here, and the fact that we have our Boy Scouts and our high school students here – they can help us make sure that the foundation is here for many years to come. "Being that 2009 is our sesquicentennial year, I couldn't think of amore fitting and proper legacy to our community than this new city hall building," Christopherson said. Following a ribbon cutting ceremony beneath the new city hall's clock tower, the dedication ended with an invitation to the audience to tour the building. A conference room on the second floor was dedicated to Owen Mamura, an architect from Sioux City, IA, who designed the unique building. "Owen was the architect on this project since its inception back in 2005," Christopherson said. "He was involved with many of the details of the site selection… I personally worked with Owen for a little more than three years on the design of the building and the narrowing down ?of the sites. "Owen passed away in November 2008, so he was not able to see this building become a reality, but this is his final design and were going to dedicate a conference room to Owen," he said. "As we dedicate this building today," Kozak said, "let us also rededicate ourselves to continue to work together to make our city the best little city it can be. As people pass through their city hall, we hope that they realize they are in a special place."