Operation Renovation

The Fairfield Commuinty Hall Board is planning a multi-phase remodeling project for the hall, with the first phase slated to start in mid-April.

For 50 years the Fairfield Community Hall has been the gathering spot where friends and families have held everything from celebrations to programs, dinners to meetings.

To commemorate the anniversary, the Community Hall Board is inviting everyone to a 50th anniversary celebration Saturday, April 18. The event planned for 6 p.m. will also be the kickoff of fundraising for a major facelift to the building.

First Bank of Montana is sponsoring the brisket and pulled pork dinner. The members of Fairfield Junior Women’s Club will cook and serve the dinner with help from the hall board and community members.

Following the meal, a program will take center stage. There will also be raffle items to bid on during the evening. Raffle donations are being accepted between now and the beginning of April. To donate, contact Shelley Batson at 590-3954 or Theresa Knight at 590-4111.

“The dinner is an excellent way to celebrate the past 50 years of the community hall and highlight the plans for the future,” hall board member Emily Gulick said.

The board isn’t planning a set fee for the dinner; instead, free-will donations will be accepted. “All donations will be appreciated,” Gulick said. “We are hoping the community will be generous in their giving as this event kicks off a several-phase remodeling project to update and rejuvenate the facility.”

The hall board — Gulick, Knight, Aaron Barnett, Nate Pitcher, Justin Winston and Treasurer Batson — is spearheading the remodeling project. The Fairfield Lions Club is assisting with fundraising for the project.

Over the past year, the hall board has worked with Nelson Architects of Great Falls to address concerns and create a design and timeline.

Phase one of the project includes totally redoing the bathrooms and remodeling the kitchen. Construction on this phase will begin on Monday, April 20, and will be complete before Swim Days in July.

The two bathrooms will be expanded, using space from the storage room behind and several feet in front of the current facilities. With the remodel, both bathrooms will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a standard which they presently do not meet. The north entry door on the west side will be removed and double doors installed just a few feet farther down. In a future phase, a cover will be placed over the double doors, which will be the main entrance from the town park side.

The kitchen remodel will also include an expansion of several feet, and new cupboards and counter tops. The renovation includes the addition of double ovens in addition to the two current ovens, moving the recently purchased commercial cooler into the kitchen and adding a similar size freezer, installing a dishwasher and hot water system and updates to electric and plumbing as needed.

The hall board has selected earth tone colors that will be carried throughout the bathroom and kitchen flooring, countertops, etc. The warm contemporary theme will feature a touch of country. This will be highlighted in the barn style doors over the counter to close off the kitchen.

There are no plans to change the meeting room off the kitchen, as it has already been updated. The office space in the front of the facility, which served as the town office for many years, houses the Fairfield Food Bank. There are no plans to update that room but there could be a change in the doorway with the plans to remodel the vestibule entrance.

The hall board is proposing four additional phases to the remodeling project. They have not established a timeline, as that will be dictated by available funds.

The second phase includes facade renovation using pre-finished metal siding panels on the entire building and masonry wainscoting and new entryways on the south and west sides.

Phase three includes: remodeling the main room of the facility by replacing existing windows, removing the stage area to be replaced by a portable stage, adding a storage room in front of the back meeting room, replacing flooring, updating and installing insulation on walls and ceiling, replacing existing lights with LED fixtures and remodeling vestibule entrances.

Phase four will be new landscaping.

Replacing of the heating and cooling system will be addressed in phase two or three.

The hall will continue to be open to rent during the construction, with the understanding that there will be inconveniences with no restrooms or kitchen.

The community has always been an instrumental part of building the hall and overseeing updates since it was constructed in 1969. The present building was erected after a fire on Nov. 10, 1968, that destroyed the original community hall, which was built in 1916 and owned by the Sons of Norway and later by the American Legion.

Because of cost, the American Legion was unable to carry insurance on the building and didn’t have the funds to rebuild when it burned. Ten days after the fire, the Fairfield mayor called a meeting to discuss building a new hall. Newspaper articles show 100 interested citizens attended the first meeting. They selected a planning committee and began the process of building a fireproof structure to replace the hall.

A corporation was formed with a board appointed and membership consisting of those who paid annual dues. The group purchased two lots from the American Legion for the building and the Legion donated the other two. Volunteers set a goal to raise $30,000 of the projected $50,000 needed for the building. The budget did not include the anticipated volunteer services or the labor.

Construction began in May 1969 and was completed in December of that year. A New Year’s dance was held in the new building on Dec. 31, 1969.

To raise the $30,000 volunteers went door-to-door receiving donations or pledges. Area businesses and organizations were also generous in giving to the building. The mortgage for the building was paid off and burned during an annual meeting held on March 6, 1978.

Over the years, there have been several small and large upgrades to the community hall. Some of the more notable ones were the replacement of the flooring throughout the hall, curtains for the stage, remodeling of the backroom, the addition of a large storage area for tables and chairs that included a handicapped entrance and paving of the parking lot next to the community hall.

Just as when the building was erected, donations from community members and fundraisers were held to pay for the improvements.

A big portion of phase one of the current remodel project is being financed through larger donations that have been given to the hall.

Gulick said the board will have a better estimate of how much more is needed to pay for phase one after bids are completed. The board will also use funds raised at the 50th celebration to help pay for this phase.

The Fairfield Lions Club has volunteered to assist with soliciting more funding for the hall renovations, Gulick said, adding, “The Lions Club’s help is greatly appreciated.”

Lions Club members Brad Bauman and Mark Lacher are taking the lead on raising funds.

Just as the community did 50 years ago, Bauman said they will start with the same concept of going door-to-door. They plan to visit with area residents as well as corporations and foundations for grant funding or matching funds. The options of business and individual five-year pledge commitments will be offered.

“With a project that could range from $50,000 to $750,000, funding is going to have to come from all sectors to make this entire project happen,” Bauman said. “Fairfield is an incredible little village that has never backed away from a community needed project.”

All donations made to the hall renovation project are tax deductible. The Community Hall Inc. has an account under the Fairfield Education and Community Association (FECA) umbrella. FECA is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

The 50th celebration will be the fourth time an anniversary has been held at the Fairfield Community Hall. There were celebrations for the 25th anniversary on Oct. 1, 1994, for the 30th on Sept. 25, 1999, and for the 40th on Oct. 3, 2009.

Mark your calendar now to attend the 50th on April 18.