Board approves plan to demolish Hutchins Memorial

Ponca City Now - February 22, 2016 7:21 pm

The Ponca City Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to demolish the James S. Hutchins Memorial Auditorium.

The vote came after Assistant City Manager Tana McKinley read a history and summary of the building in War Memorial Park, south of Ponca City High School.

Following is a copy of the summary.

SUMMARY:

The City of Ponca City has owned and operated the James S. Hutchins Memorial Auditorium (Hutchins Memorial), which is located in War Memorial Park, since it was built during the 1961-1962 fiscal year. The land that it was built upon belonged to the City of Ponca City and was dedicated in 1927 to “be used only for municipal purposes, which shall include school purposes,” and originated from a separate source than did the money received for the building.

The Hutchins Memorial facility has become functionally obsolete, as it is in need of extensive repairs, and substantial improvements are needed for building code compliance and the provision of handicap accessibility.

Income from the Hutchins Memorial does not cover even a third of the expenses of current operations and certainly provides nothing for maintenance or repair. These financial facts are even more adverse; as basic building repairs and renovation needs include the HVAC system, roof, fire sprinklers, side walls, lighting, electrical, restrooms, sound system, seating, curtains, and many other features, all of which exceed the cost of demolition.

The fate of the Hutchins Memorial has been discussed extensively over the last 20 years, dating back to Mayor Marilyn Andrews’ Blue Ribbon Committee’s recommendation in 1996, to “’Band-Aid’ the building for 10 years, after 10 years tear down and either give to high school or sell it.” The Committee’s recommendation at that time was to replace the building in its entirety.

The Hutchins Memorial Auditorium has limited usage due to lack of air-conditioning during warmer months. The facility is not self-supporting from revenue which it provides from its own operation; and in recent years, new event centers have been built both within and in near proximity to Ponca City.

James S. Hutchins had a significant role in the founding and early life of Ponca City, by giving significant public service as a Mayor, from 1901to1902, and as a Finance Commissioner, from 1920 to 1922, as well as providing a business and community support function, so his memory should be preserved through a new dedication in his honor as a memorial.

Staffs of the Ponca City School System and the City of Ponca City have explored a number of construction concerns surrounding the School’s plans to build a concert hall on the existing Ponca City High School campus in an attempt to overcome issues relating to the landlocked nature of that campus. Both have determined that it is worth pursuing a partnership between the School System and the City to have the concert hall constructed on these adjacent City grounds.

This Resolution, if approved, determines the following:

  • The money cost of keeping the Hutchins Memorial Auditorium is prohibitive considering other financial needs, which the City must provide to its citizens.
  • The City Manager is directed to investigate demolition of the subject building at the least possible cost and take such action as he deems appropriate to cause the demolition of said building consistent with the Competitive Bidding Act.
  • The City Manager is authorized to explore an alternate dedication to serve as a memorial to James S. Hutchins.
  • The City Manager is authorized to negotiate the terms of an agreement between the City of Ponca City and the Ponca City School System for the long term use of this land as a public school facility to be brought back for City Commission consideration.
 

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