Grand Junction Community Center opens with festive event

About 200 Grand Junction and area residents gathered Saturday evening to cut a ceremonial ribbon and celebrate completion of Grand Junction’s new $1.2 million community center. As people saw the completed project, “awesome” and “amazing” were the most frequently heard words.

Watch a tour filmed by Pat Boberg at the open house.

Community center committee chair Diane Wise served as emcee at a program that saluted those involved with the ambitious project.

She first introduced committee members: Alan Robinson, Jack Cummings, Jeremy Richards, Kim Reuter, Tom Wind, Dustin Fouch, Larry Pote and his wife Mary Chancy, Jan Scharingson, Joan Dearborn and Jerry Herrick. The Grand Junction women’s clubs were recognized for their input, and Darla Babcock was thanked for her instrumental role in deconstruction of the old buildings on the site.

“This center has been a dream of many for years, starting with a group of card players and the Grand Junction Horizons.  When we reorganized their only request was that the community center get built before they died, and I am happy to say they are all here. These ladies kept the dream alive,” Wise said.

The first donation for the center was deposited Nov. 8, 2011, Wise said.  During the next two years, about $30,000 was raised.  In October of 2013 the committee reorganized and within 14 months raised the money needed to start construction. This center is one built with the donations of many, Wise said, and named a few. The Grand Junction Women’s Club ran a continuous garage sale for several years raising, $5,000; a Glo Run netted more than $5,000; and an auction with donations from local families netted more than $18,000.  The sale of bait boxes at $5 each brought in more than $1,000.

“The list continues with donations from alumni, residents, businesses, the city and the State of Iowa.  All believed in this center and invested in the future of Grand Junction,” Wise said.

She gave special recognition to Bob and Katherine Glenn for their help and gave them a bait box as a token of appreciation.

She also thanked her son Aaron Wise for being her sounding board for two years and for his help with the final work on the building. He “saved the day” when he fabricated a large map of Iowa for the donor tags originally intended to be put on the tables.

The Grand Junction Community Center features a community room available to all for use during normal business hours.  The room, which can seat eight to 10 comfortably, has a refrigerator, sink, microwave oven and coffeepot.  The room is intended for coffee or card groups or small meetings.

The Junction Room can accommodate 50 and the Lincoln Way Room can accommodate approximately 250. The beautiful wood accents around this room represent the Lincoln Highway from coast to coast and hide special insulation that acts as a sound buffer.

The office of city clerk Katherine Thomas is located there. She will be available during regular business hours to handle reservations to use the building.

An overhead projector, a sound system, and free WiFi are available. Bob Smith of TechZone in Jefferson provided and installed a state-of-the art security system as well as the sound system.

Wise presented a plaque to Junction Hilltop Wind, LLC in recognition of its challenge grant that totaled $400,000.

The Ausberger family donated $100,000 to make this a net zero electricity building. Bob Ausberger was the chief volunteer installing a solar array connected to the energy grid to produce enough electricity so that minimal expense is incurred by the city of Grand Junction and its residents.

The Grand Junction Community Center is one of two commercial buildings in Iowa that are net zero for energy.

Tom Wind, an owner of Junction Hilltop Wind Farm, elaborated on the net zero energy planning. He said that it was a lifelong interest in renewable energy shared by himself and Bill Sutton, another Junction Hilltop Wind owner, that prompted them to propose a net zero energy challenge to the fundraising committee.

A net zero energy building is designed so that solar panels generate as much energy over the course of a year as the building uses, Wind explained. The building is all electric, using no natural gas. Energy usage is estimated at between 55,000 and 60,000 kWh per year.

The solar array was sized to generate that amount, but it is too large to fit on the roof of the building. So, Ausbergers’ donation is paying for a 44 kW solar array on the east side of Grand Junction. The array will generate about twice the amount of power the community center needs in the summer, but only half what it needs during the winter.

Wind and the community center committee are working with the Grand Junction city council and the Grand Junction utilities board on the final business arrangements.

Wind also presented Diane Wise with the first Junction Hilltop Wind Winds of Change Award. He noted that to take the leadership role to build the Grand Junction Community Center required Wise to change the way people think, the way they spend their money, and their vision of what the community can be.

Wise continued with the program. She thanked Haila Architects, Jensen Construction, former mayor Jerry Herrick for his efforts with infrastructure such as tiles and drains, and city clerk Katherine Thomas for her efforts with paperwork and paying bills. She also thanked current mayor David Kersey (elected in November).

Scharingson spoke briefly about the kitchen, which is stocked with dishes (many of them vintage) from the Alumni Association. Smith talked about the sound and security systems, and Robinson, who is heading the committee working toward future improvements of the downtown, updated the group on the work of that committee.

“From destruction of the old building to construction of this, so many people have contributed their time, physical being and money. It has been a joint effort of many hands and minds designing, financing and building a community center built today with the future in mind,” Wise said. “This building is the catalyst for future improvements, a new face on Main Street and a reason  to keep moving forward,” she said.

Vintage photos of Grand Junction, on canvas, decorate the hallway.
Vintage photos of Grand Junction, on canvas, decorate the hallway.
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