by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
A local organization has come forward to express a genuine interest in moving into the grand old brick building at the corner of Fourth and Huron.
The Grambau Education Center opened its doors 89 years ago so Rogers City students could learn and study in a community that was growing with every shipment of limestone that left Calcite.
Officials of Presque Isle District Library (PIDL) would like to roll back the clock, make it a place of study once again with a possible move into the city landmark.
Library director Amber Clement is leading the effort on behalf of PIDL, but the first step is seeking out public opinion. She would like residents to fill out surveys available at all the library branches at the circulation desk and let their feelings be known.
Clement plans to have a detailed presentation during the John Wayne film festival next month at the PIDL-owned Rogers City Theater.
Some board members have toured the Grambau Center and visited a former school building from the same era in Charlevoix that was renovated into a public library.
“This is in the early stages,” said Clement from her office.
A feasibility study would have to be conducted and grant dollars are available for that.
“We need to get a feasibility study to see how much it is going to cost to move in there as a library,” said Clement. “And take that back to the community and show that to them.”
Post study, if the community is still supportive, the next step would be to raise the money or revisit the current millage that stands at one mill. The biggest need is a new roof.
“One of our problems here is, we don’t have enough space. “I have our classic collection of books in a closet. Rogers City, as the central library for the district, should be able to hold the core collection for the branches, but we don’t have the space.”
Clement has only been in the community since December 2015, has a love for the building and would like to see the historic building preserved.
“It is a great building, a great location,” she said. “It is not far from the school, it is not far from the downtown area and it would alleviate the tensions that we have in our current space.
“Nobody wants to see it torn down, but nobody has stepped up to the plate to take this building. As a community, we could do this, but the district library also needs community support.” She said it is a long-term project that may take five years or more.
“As the superintendent of schools I have been able to answer a few questions from the Presque Isle District Library in regards to the Grambau Center,” said David O’Bryant. “I believe it would be a great use of the building and I could see the two entities working together on various things in regards to the use of the Grambau Center.”
There is no price for the purchase the Grambau Center, said Clement.
Mark Thompson, Presque Isle County Historical Museum executive director/curator, believes it is a tremendous opportunity to save the building from the wrecking ball.
“You have three generations of Rogers City people who went there,” said Thompson. “I went there and my parents went there. They use to have all the class pictures up in the hallway. It is pretty amazing to be in high school and look at your mother’s graduation class up on the wall.”
Thompson said the building is structurally sound.
“If you walk around the building, and it dates 1927, go look at the masonry and try to find some cracks,” said Thompson. “It was so well built.
“I know there are a lot of people in Rogers City, who are terrified that it is going to deteriorate to the point that it cannot be saved. I am a firm believer that it needs to be saved.”
Thompson has been on a committee over the last decade and has argued that one or two governmental organizations need to set up shop in there.
“If it gets to the point where it cannot be saved, the school district will be shocked at what the cost is going to be to demolish it,” he added. “There is so much concrete in that building in the lower levers, you might have to use explosives to clear it out. They are better off saving it, I guarantee you that.”
Clement said a move to Grambau Center would make it possible to bring people from outside of the community in for conferences and other events. “It is a big project and we definitely would need community support,” said Clement.
“The library would be able to provide the services that other libraries in lower Michigan do and one thing families look at when moving are schools and the library.”