Upset in Manhattan over plans to change Peace Memorial Auditorium

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Some Manhattan residents are offended by the city’s plans to renovate an auditorium that also serves as a veterans’ memorial.

City commissioners have approved a project to turn the Peace Memorial Auditorium in City Hall into space for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Deputy City Manager Jason Hilgers says based on how little the auditorium is used now, there’s much more potential for the space.

However, some residents are upset because they say the project disrespects thousands of Riley County veterans who the auditorium was originally dedicated to.

Hilgers says there’s only a small plaque that references that dedication, so he’d like to create a new memorial that better represents veterans, but some residents want to keep the existing one the way it is.

“We can’t look at anything other than the single plaque that’s evident on the wall and the dedication pamphlet,” Hilgers said at a public meeting Thursday evening about the project, “Which we have displayed here tonight, i dont know what happened but i dont think it’s adequate.”

Jim Sharp, a veteran who attended the meeting, says the memorial is similar to those in Washington, D.C.

“A memorial that was dedicated to these soldiers, you know, shouldn’t be changed,” Sharp says.

Hilgers says funding for the $2.6 million project will come from capital improvement reserve funds and Parks and Recreation revenues through bond payments.

He expects to have the design finalized by this fall, and if all goes as planned, construction will begin at the start of 2014.

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