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Old records see new life

Cindy Grohs, Plankinton finance officer, works at her desk Wednesday afternoon inside the new City Hall in Plankinton. The book in the foreground is the handwritten police log from the late 1970s when Plankinton had a city police officer. (Sean Ryan/Republic)1 / 3
Plankinton Finance Officer Cindy Grohs walks in front of Plankinton’s new City Hall building on Wednesday in Plankinton. The handwritten judicial records, police log and city’s ordinances were found during the move and will be put on display at the new building. (Sean Ryan/Republic)2 / 3
From left, Plankinton Finance Officer Cindy Grohs and Deputy Finance Officer Eileen Sorsen look through the judicial records from early in Plankinton’s city history on Wednesday at the new City Hall building in Plankinton. The handwritten judicial records, police log and city’s ordinances were found during the move and will be put on display at the new City Hall. (Sean Ryan/Republic)3 / 3

PLANKINTON -- New made way for the old again at City Hall in Plankinton.

More than 130 years of city records, previously shrouded in storage, are now more easily accessible thanks to the city's move into a larger building.

Cindy Grohs, the city's finance officer, has taken on the task of sorting through old books and documents that date back to Dakota Territory days.

"We've always had the records, but they've been in the safe and they would be hard to show to people," she said. "We finally have to room to display some of this and get an idea of city history that maybe has been forgotten about."

Artifacts include initial ordinances passed in 1882, written in quill and ink, to the charter for the Guard Army of the Republic chapter, a fraternal organization founded for French and Indian War and Civil War veterans in 1883. There are judicial documents from the early 1900s, and records about utilities and water works. Mementos from the city's centennial are also on display on an antique desk that the city owns, complete with a spot for an ink well.

"If you wanted to look up an old electrical bill, we probably have that here," Grohs said.

The city's offices were moved to 102 S. Main Street in May to the former Central Electric office building. The move worked well for Plankinton, because the building already had a fireproof vault, replacing the aging safe that the city used for decades. And because previous owners were in the electrical business, the building already had infrastructure to house the municipal electric offices and meter equipment.

The city purchased the former Central Electric local offices for $5,108 after the building was on the market for more than a year. Mayor Joe Staller said the move was mostly a no-brainer, as the city purchased the building from the local development corporation.

"We were looking at spending $15,000 to $20,000 to upgrade our city hall and so we couldn't pass this up," he said.

The city is only using half of the new building. The Plankinton City Council decided not to rent out the rest of the building to avoid competing with other available properties on Main Street.

Plankinton is currently taking sealed bids for its old city hall at 123 N. Main Street, after declaring the building surplus during its July meeting. Those bids for the 50-by-140-foot lot and the 38-by-50-foot building will be due Aug. 4. The old city hall building was constructed in the mid-1960s to hold the B.P. Harris Law Firm. The city moved into the facility about a decade later, according to Grohs, after being located across the street where the Senior Citizens Center is currently located.

The new city hall location has some history, too. Rosalie Brink, who served as the city's finance officer for more than 20 years, said her grandmother used to operate Becker's Cafe on the site of the current city hall until she sold the business in 1957. Everything from a bank to a bar and a creamery has been at the location, which used to be two separate buildings, Brink said.

That history, then and now, has a permanent place to stay and be seen.

"We have a lot of Plankintonites who come back to town and I think would be interested in seeing some of that history, and it's good to have that on display," Staller said.