BURKE — Since the Aug. 6 tornado, there has been little doubt from city leaders and community members that the town would rebuild one of its most important buildings: the Burke Civic Center.
But Burke Mayor Tom Glover said the challenge is quickly rebuilding the structure and figuring out how the building should be rebuilt for the future.
“We’re finally getting things squared away, and we’re hopeful that we can get started on rebuilding and figuring out what exactly we’re going to do,” he said.
Until the August EF-1 tornado, the Main Street building near the corner of Main and Ninth streets held the town’s police department offices and had a large meeting room, along with a city gymnasium that could be used for community events, banquets and sports practices. In a typical election year, it would be used today as Burke's polling place.
For now, all that’s left of the gym is the steel beams for the walls and roof. A portable basketball hoop sits outside, with a bent backboard.
“When it’s completely torn part, that’s the time to make decisions like this,” he said. “(Insurers) didn’t total the building out, so the main support beams and columns are still there.”
The entire building is currently closed off. Glover said the plan is to winterize the community center part of the building and install a wall to potentially allow that portion to reopen first and allow the police department office and community meeting space to move back in. He estimated the town has spent between $200,000 and $300,000 out of its reserves in cleanup and electrical repairs in the Civic Center area since the tornado has hit. He said there’s been no indication of what the Federal Emergency Management Administration might be able to provide to reimburse costs.
Community members have gathered at Burke City Council meetings to decide how they should rebuild the Civic Center’s gymnasium, and a consensus formed to add a stage to one end of the building and make the structure slightly larger and longer than it was before. The costs to rebuild the gymnasium are still being estimated, Glover said.
“It’s just been taking quite a while to figure things out with the insurance and I think we’ve now gotten to the point where we have it all resolved, but we know we’ve got the clock running against us a little,” he said.
Meanwhile, there’s been other progress for the community since the storm. The Burke Building Center, which was located next to the Civic Center and was at the heart of the storm’s damage, is working on renovating a former implement business on U.S. Highway 18. In turn, a local hay grinding business has made plans to take the former building center’s location and put up a new building on that site, pouring new cement footings for a new structure.
The obvious signs of tornado damage at the Burke school complex are disappearing, as new siding has continued to be installed. There were also some buildings that were torn down Monday, Glover said, a sign of the continued work that is being done.
“It’s a work in progress but we’re getting there,” he said.