Gifford's community building sound but needs fixes
GIFFORD — Gifford's social center appears to have survived the Nov. 17 tornado, although it's going to need repair.
A structural engineer on Wednesday morning looked over what is known as the German Fall Festival community building and found that it is sound, said members of the board of the not-for-profit corporation that operates the facility.
"The community's going to have their community building back for their events," said Tim Dillman, one of the nine members of the German Fall Festival board.
"There are functions and fundraisers and all kinds of stuff scheduled in the building," board member Rodney German said. "It's important that we keep it."
"It sounds like we got a lot of damage but that structurally we'll be all right," said Gifford Mayor Derald Ackerman, also a member of the fall festival board.
But several events will have to be canceled or moved to another location while the building undergoes repairs.
Ten events were scheduled for the big hall between Nov. 17 and Dec. 14, said Neil Baker, president of the board.
"This is our busy time," Baker said. "We do weddings throughout the year. The Ducks Unlimited have their banquet here in March, and the Lions Club has events here all the time. But typically November and December are lots of Christmas parties and things of that nature."
The same insurance policy that board members hope will cover the building's repairs has a clause "that covers the loss of income. We just have to put a pencil to what we'll be losing out," Baker said.
The building, on Main Street just north of Gifford's modest business district, dates to the 1940s, when it was a John Deere dealership. Later, it was a grain cooperative, a trucking company and the Gifford State Bank.
"We originated in 1972, when we had our first German Fall Festival," Ackerman said of the Oktoberfest-like event that ran from 1972 to '76. "The proceeds we got from that we bought this building, us and the Lions Club. We fixed it up, doing most of all the inside work ourselves."
Board members spent much of Wednesday calling contractors to see who could do the rehab work.
"The way it sounds right now, it looks like it can be saved. It's more a process of making the repairs. It looks like we're safe, but we've got a lot of damage," Baker said.
Primary among the work items is repairing the building's north wall, which bowed outward in the tornado. Many of the concrete blocks have been replaced with a temporary wall.
Windows and doors need to be replaced, an entryway needs repair, ceiling tiles must be replaced, a pantry that suffered water damage has to be fixed, and the roof must be completely replaced, Baker said.
He had no estimate for the cost of the repair work.