Social Turn Verein OKs rebuild for historic hall
One year following the Turner Hall fire, the Fredericksburg Social Turn Verein has officially voted to rebuild.
Members met on June 28 for their annual meeting at the Gillespie County Farm Bureau Event Center. The agenda included reviewing events over the past year and discussing the next step in rebuilding.
“We did get the motion to approve the building plans, so I would say it went pretty well,” President Duane Durst said.
Before breaking ground, the group has to finish raising funds and hire an architect and engineer.
“The German in me really wants to have all the funds raised, but I don’t know if that is going to be possible,” Vice President Nichole Ransleben said.
Ransleben estimates that the building cost will be $700,000 just for the outer shell, roof and walls. A complete rebuild could cost $1.5 million.
The group currently has just under $800,000 from insurance and donations.
“I think once we break ground, we can get more funds and people will really understand how serious we are about this,” Durst said.
The new, 9,500-square-foot building plans include a dance floor for 316 people, a meeting room, a kitchen, a bar and a barbecue pit. The iconic bowling alley that used handset pins will be omitted.
Due to new city codes, Turner Hall will have to use parking spaces at Fredericksburg Middle School and the Coach Tony Knopp Town Pool to properly accommodate guests.
“The new place will be a little smaller because we have to add parking that we didn’t have before but we gained square footage for the public to use,” Durst said.
The Fredericksburg Social Turn Verein expects to find an architect and engineer in the next few months and have bids for contractors in the next six months.
Becoming a nonprofit
In the meantime, the group has another task to take on — to become an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
A decade ago, the group was classified as nonprofit but its license has since failed to be renewed by directors.
This designation allows donations and membership fees to be tax exempt. Durst believes this will be beneficial but the process to obtain the license is lengthy.
“The process from start to finish will take another year and Nichole has already been working on it for the last year,” Durst said.
To help expedite the process, the group voted to hire a professional to get the application started and completed.
While the Fredericksburg Social Turn Verein does have funds from insurance and donations to rebuild, the group wants to find other ways to raise money.
One idea was to develop a tiered, lifetime membership program. For a certain dollar amount, people could be members for a lifetime and help contribute to the cost of the new facility. The board of directors is expected to vote on this later in July.
The group also will hold a fundraiser in September or October, host their annual New Year’s Eve Dance and slate a pork barbecue in February.
The community and organization has few answers as to what caused the fire on June 19, 2016 that burned down the historic landmark.
The investigation is currently under the direction of the Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Austin and is ongoing, according to Lt. Terry Weed of the Criminal Investigation Division at the Fredericksburg Police Department. “In my opinion, this is a high-profile case, and at this point we have everything at the lab. Now we are waiting,” Weed said.
In the past month, the case has been worked on extensively, Weed said. FPD submitted everything from glass, paint, particles and more to be examined.
“When you submit crime evidence to a lab, it has to go through different divisions as to make sure none of the evidence gets contaminated,” he said.
The fire is currently being investigated as arson, which could make it more difficult to determine the intentions of the fire.
The night of the fire, there were burglaries in town around the same time. Weed believes there may be a connection between the events. The lab may be able to con-firm that theory.
“It is probably connected but we don’t know for sure,” Weed said. “Hopefully, in the next few months, we will have some results, whether they are good or bad.”