BEATRICE – A community center in a southern Gage County village will get a financial boost as it undertakes upgrades. The Gage County Board Wednesday approved a $23,000 grant from the county visitor improvement fund…..financed by lodging tax revenue. The funds will assist with a Barneston Community Center project to update out-of-date restrooms.

Betsy Frerichs is a member of the Barneston Community Center Board. "The gym was built in 1952 and currently the bathrooms downstairs are very dungeon-esque....they're concrete stairs down to the original bathrooms. The men's currently doesn't's not open and functioning. We've just had a lot of struggles with sewer issues and freezing pipes. There's no heat downstairs unless we turn on space heaters to keep the pipes from freezing. I have a bid here for a little over a hundred thousand dollars and I have two designs that are not written in add an addition outside to the community add on bathrooms. There would be a breezeway with a sink and storage area...leading into a men's and women's restroom."

Frerichs says the current restroom arrangement presents a danger for people using the community center….or as she puts it….”an accident in the making”. "The building is used a lot. And, I really do think, and the board thinks....that if we could get new bathrooms that go out the north side of the building, it would be used even more. We have lots of events in there...we do lots of fundraisers, tournaments, volleyball, basketball...all ages anywhere from kindergartners to adults. We do leagues."

The board in Barneston operates the center through donations or rent from groups or events that make use of the community center. "Is is an awesome old historic building. We've done a lot of work, already. We have painted, we've updated the inside...the roof was redone, the floor has been redone. We've gotten some grants for some small things like a sound speaker system, new kitchen equipment.....the kitchen's actually been remodeled upstairs. These bathrooms are just a necessity for this building to stay open," Frerichs said.

Frerichs says with the visitors grant, about $50,000 has been raised for the project…..and the board of directors plans to seek support of two other foundations to raise the additional funds. She says project construction could begin in March.

The Gage County Board approved the grant on a 6-0 vote. The visitors improvement fund has a balance of $411,000….money that is periodically used to help pay for community projects in the county.  A visitors committee reviews applications for the funding, which then are considered by the Gage County Board.