There are parallels to the national debate over health care:
It’s time to move on, ‘refine and revise’ — not ‘repeal and replace’

Good people, with good intentions, will differ in opinion on any given project, initiative or issue.

Pelican Rapids is experiencing this with the continuing discussion over the proposed city hall renovation and community center project.

Interestingly, I see some vague parallels between the Pelican city hall and the national debate on health care. I bring this up reluctantly. By no means do I want to compare a federal-level policy and a purely local situation.

In the case of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) there was a vast amount of energy, resources, financial and political investment on an admittedly imperfect end result.

But the solution from the opposition is “repeal and replace,” rather than a balanced, reasonable effort to “refine and revise.”

Locally, there was a similar, though of course proportionally smaller, investment in the city hall-community center project.

Sitting on my desk as I write this is a 24-page, detailed document prepared by the “Community Center Committee.” It is dated May of 2012. It was prepared by a large and diverse task force of community members–all of them volunteering on the basis that they were planning for a community center.

Also sitting on my desk is a large document of plans, specifications, blueprints and artist depictions for a Pelican city hall and community center project. These were completed; at a cost of time, energy, resources and money; in 2012, by consultant BHH PlannersArchitects–as directed by the Pelican Rapids City Council.

For more than five years, the city has taken short steps toward this city hall renovation. Each step came with an expense.

Granted, some councilmembers have not been entirely wholehearted in their individual views of the project. But the fact is, there has been a continuing concensus, and in some cases, unanimous votes to proceed with this project.

Example: In January of 2013, the council voted to proceed with removing walls, dismantling existing office fixtures, and “opening up” the entire upper level of city hall.

Today, the upper level is a wide-open, empty shell. In its current state–all of which was approved by a concensus of the city council and at a monetary cost–the space is inappropriate for anything BUT a large-group gathering area.

There has been some informal suggestion that the city reconsider, possibly selling or leasing the upper level for commercial, business and office rental.

Unfortunately, it would require considerable re-investment to re-renovate and re-purpose the space to accommodate commercial renters.

In a sense, the city has proceeded to a point of no return. By choosing to move forward–by majority concensus–there is hardly a financially feasible “fall back” position.

Another suggestion: Build a brand new community center facility; off-site and detached from the present city hall. Where…When…How…and at what cost?

At the federal level, there has been an enormous investment in health care reform.

Was it unanimous?

Obviously not.

But it was a reform forged by the democratic process. In a similar spirit of democracy and reasoned compromise, the Affordable Care Act could be “refined, revised, remodeled, renovated and reformed.”

I extend that basic argument to our little issue in our little corner of the world. A course was charted for a city hall-community center project about six years ago. Concensus was reached. Votes were recorded. Steps were taken. Investments were made.

Through the democratic process, we arrived where we are today with the city hall project.

It’s a little late in the running for “repeal and replace.”