Town Hall will reopen as the primary venue for county-managed community recreation, Scott Bangle, Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District parks director and general manager, confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 3.
In the Town Crier edition of Nov. 19, we reported the closure of Town Hall. A notice had been posted on the door stating, “Preliminary tests have determined this facility has material containing asbestos. Do not disturb.” Recreation programs were relocated to the County Parks Nature Center on Highway 243.
Bangle stated in response to a Town Crier inquiry that a second inspection of the historic building revealed “… no obvious signs that would warrant an immediate response action [removal or abatement.]” He stated, “It was recommended that we consider undertaking some minor work as a precautionary, proactive measure.”
Bangle said the recommended work would begin “as quickly as possible with the goal of returning [recreation] programs to Town Hall by January, if not sooner.” Kyla Brown, Parks and Recreation bureau chief, said costs of estimated repairs would be less than $2,000. Work began this week.
Previous inspections also revealed the presence of bat droppings in the attic, which also are being removed. “We will likely contract with a local pest control company to remove any bats that may still be inhabiting the attic area,” said Brown.
A letter from William T. Cloake IV, superintendent of Community Parks and Recreation Centers, to parents and guardians of the Idyllwild Town Hall Afterschool Program participants, confirmed Bangle’s and Brown’s statements.
Verne Lauritzen, Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington’s chief of staff, stated the county made the decision to proceed with repair even though the month-to-month lease agreement could have been interpreted to require the building owners to do so. The repair will involve installing a false ceiling to seal the area beneath the asbestos. “The county just needs to do the right thing and get the community back in the building,” said Lauritzen.
Jay Johnson, whose family owns Town Hall, said he would be negotiating a longer-term rental agreement with the county for its continued use of Town Hall. The current agreement is month-to-month, based on the original contract with the county’s Economic Development Agency, signed when the county began managing local recreation in 2011.
Riverside County manages local recreation for residents of County Service Area 36 (Idyllwild and Fern Valley). The county levies parcel taxes on CSA 36 property owners to fund community recreation. Those taxes, plus property taxes, yield annual recreation budgets in the neighborhood of $200,000 (see article on page 7 regarding the role of the CSA 36 Advisory Council in reviewing how tax dollars are spent). Initially managed by EDA, tax-funded recreation and street light maintenance are now managed by County Parks and Open Space.