The big rumor running around town late last week was that the Smith Center had suffered so much damage in the April 10 tornado that it would have to be torn down and replaced. But the Merrill Parks and Recreation Director says that is just a rumor.
“That is absolutely false,” said Dan Wendorf. “It is not going to be torn down.”
He said teams of engineers and insurance adjustors have been going through the building early this week to get a true handle on what will need to be done to make the building operational again. The roof was patched last week to prevent any further damage from the elements.
The Parks and Recreation office has taken temporary refuge in City Hall, occupying the office that had belonged to the City Administrator. The calls to the regular telephone number 536-7313 have been rerouted to this location.
Wendorf said that the summer recreation program will be based out of the former DNR Ranger Station off Center Avenue. Details and hours are still being worked out.
“We are going to keep our summer programs going, they just won’t be based at the MARC,” he said.
Wendorf also is the City Forester, and said he was in touch with the Department of Natural Resources early on in the response process to see what kind of help residents and the city can get to replace the trees lost to the storm.
“I talked with them first thing on Monday after the tornado,” Wendorf said.
He said city residents are eligible to apply for DNR grants to help replant trees and he is also checking into other possible funding sources.
Wendorf said the loss of all the trees in the damaged area will not have a bearing on Merrill’s designation as a “Tree City USA.”
“That is based on how much we spend on planting and maintaining trees each year,” Wendorf said. “If anything, the replanting should enhance our standing.”