Danville Express

Newsfront - November 16, 2007

Veterans discuss ownership of Memorial Building with county

Danville cannot make changes until it holds title

by Jordan M. Doronila

Danville may take over ownership of the Veterans Memorial Building on Hartz Avenue from the county in the near future, which is necessary before the town will make extensive changes to the property.

Town officials and veterans convened at Contra Costa County District 3 Supervisor Mary N. Piepho's office Monday, Nov. 5, to discuss options on providing the best facility. Veterans said they feel the Memorial Building on Hartz Avenue in Danville is the most suitable location for a permanent center.

The county owns the building, and it is willing to transfer ownership to the town if the veterans develop a business plan and find funding, Piepho said. She noted that the veterans must be the building's main users.

"Can the town own the building?" she asked. "The answer is yes. The ball is in the veterans' and the town's court."

The Town of Danville would be involved in making significant changes if they owned the hall. Pleasanton received ownership of its downtown veterans' hall from Alameda County in 1997, and the city recently completed a $4.8 million restoration.

Monday's meeting included committee president Tony Carnemolla, Town Councilwoman Karen Stepper, Mayor Mike Shimansky and Town Manager Joe Calabrigo. Other county officials and people involved with the committee attended, too.

"All those parties are working together very cooperatively," Calabrigo said. "We are actively looking for a solution that will best meet the veterans' needs into the foreseeable future."

Committee members and town officials appear to be in agreement with the town about receiving ownership from the county for the Veterans Memorial Building, said Stepper.

"Everyone in the room felt it was the favorable route," she said.

The committee and the town are still exploring whether to tear down the old vets hall - which is at the end of its useful life - and erect a new building or renovate the historical edifice. When finished, the new center would house senior programs, too, and groups that provide services to veterans and the Armed Forces such as the Blue Star Moms.

At this point, VenueTech, the committee's consultant, is writing grants to the federal government, developing a business plan, and ironing out details with the hall trustees. Stepper said the plan and funds may be ready in six months.

The town has pledged $750,000 to the committee toward building a suitable veterans facility; the project is part of the town's Capital Improvement Program. The Danville Town Council at its meeting last month allocated $75,000 to the Veterans Memorial Building Development Committee to hire VenueTech.

Stepper noted that the veterans' hall project has involved not only members from the local and county governments but also from the federal government.

Calabrigo said everyone involved in the project will get back together again and continue talking, exploring the next step in the process.

"I would say everyone involved at this point is optimistic something will move forward," he said.

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