Building Zone: Projects get underway in area

ESCANABA – Building and remodeling projects, made possible by generous philanthropists, are already underway or set to begin in the area. They include renovations at a civic center and a museum in Escanaba and construction of a new fire hall in Escanaba Township.

During the Escanaba City Council meeting Thursday, a $136,301 bid for renovations at the Bonifas Civic Center was unanimously approved to be awarded to Roy Ness Contracting and Sales Inc. of Escanaba. The project is being funded through a donation from Patt and John Besse of Gladstone.

According to Recreation Director Tom Penegor, the Besses offered to pay for the renovations after doing a walk through the building last spring. Council officially approved the funding last July.

In a letter to council then, the Besses wrote of their interest in projects which benefit both the young and the old. They stated the civic center is “a second home to thousands of young people and seniors every day and critical to the community.”

Penegor told council the facility is visited more than 90,000 times a year. The building has been in need of a second locker room and barrier-free bathrooms for many years, he said.

The Besses are paying for the additional locker room and renovations to the two bathrooms on the senior center side of the building and the two bathrooms on the recreation side, explained Penegor who expressed his gratitude for their gift. Similar sentiments were echoed by council.

The Besses have recently donated funds for other area projects including construction of a new park on the southwest side of Escanaba. Council officially accepted the $280,000 gift from the couple last month.

The park will include state-of-the-art playground equipment surrounded by an oval walking track. There will be a 1,728-square-foot pavilion with four grills, a disc golf course, two volleyball courts, and a paved parking lot. Picnic tables, benches, and a water fountain will be installed along with a portable restroom.

Ground was broke Monday to begin construction of a new fire hall for the Escanaba Township Fire Department. The project is being funded with $150,000 donated by Patt and John Besse. The new hall will be built on two acres of land transferred to the township by Gladstone City. Once completed, the hall will also serve as an election precinct for those who vote at Cameron Elementary School.

In other action Thursday, the Escanaba City Council unanimously approved renaming the Water Plant Road in Ludington Park to Beaumier Way in recognition of the contributions made to the community by Dr. John Beaumier of Duluth, a former Escanaba resident.

The Delta County Historical Society Museum is currently undergoing a major expansion thanks to a $1 million donation from Beaumier, who was a past president of the local historical society.

A 3,766-square-foot addition is being built on the west end of the existing building while a 1,600-square-foot addition is taking shape on the museum’s east end. The original building is also being renovated.

In the past, Beaumier has contributed donations to other area projects including $368,000 to a road project and $9,000 to the high school gym.

Local officials are planning to dedicate the museum and the new park at ceremonies to be scheduled during the Escanaba 150 Celebration in July.