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Hettinger improving armory for community use

Press Photo by Mike Hricik The National Guard's name still remains at Hettinger's armory, shown here on Wednesday, even though the reserve military force ceded ownership of the facility to the city two years ago.

HETTINGER - Leaders here hope to gradually turn their town’s abandoned National Guard armory into a popular community center — hosting more dances, sports events and wedding receptions.

Hettinger City council member Curt Drolc said that a committee will be forming soon to determine future improvements to the armory. The City of Dickinson has provided grant funding for Hettinger to hire engineers to inspect the building and suggest possible alternative uses, Drolc said.

At past meetings, the council has fielded suggestions beyond using the armory as a community center, ranging from an archery range to leasable office space.

Council members voted to fix the armory’s leaky roof on Wednesday. They also modestly hiked prices for those who rent the building, expecting more foot traffic in the coming years.

In 2007, the National Guard in Hettinger decided to move its main operations to Mott. National Guard members sparingly used the armory afterward, opening up rooms to the community, Drolc said.

Two years ago, the Guard pulled out of Hettinger’s armory completely, ceding ownership to the city after the end of a decade-long contract.

Rooms, like its basketball court, are now more easily accessible for recreational and elementary school games. When the Guard was still stationed there, trucks were parked on the court, Drolc said.

The armory also features a spacious kitchen and several meeting rooms.

And, with the addition of a new sound system last year, more wedding receptions have been held at the armory, Hettinger Mayor Steve Turner said.

But there’s still work to be done. Many furnishings are dated and lighting is dim. Trisha Schalesky, newly hired as the armory’s custodian, said at the meeting that she is still in the process of throwing out old junk, including dingy mattresses.

The basketball court also needs refurbished, as players have complained about slipping on the floor, Turner said.

Because of a tight city budget, improvements cannot be made all at once, council member Suzie Reuther said.

“It would really be nice to spice things up, but we can only work in small parts,” council member Kim Markegard said.

Input from engineers will help determine how best to spend city funds, Turner said.

In other news, council members also expressed interest in hiring an outside firm to tighten the city’s building ordinances.

Council member Darin Seamands said he is frustrated about the city’s lack of teeth in punishing ordinance breakers, citing a recent building placed on state land as one example.

Turner said builders can sometimes see Hettinger as the “wild west,” constructing wherever and however they want.

“We've better start doing something or it's going to bite us in the butt,” Turner said.