ROGERS CITY - Richard Smith wants to do something positive for Rogers City, so he's proposing to turn an old school into a multipurpose community center.
Smith approached the Rogers City Area Schools Board of Education with his idea, and made an offer: $1 for the Grambau Center, formerly the Rogers City High School. He admitted the offer is a long shot, but in return he wants to transform the building into something that would give residents hope.
"The idea is to take this building and use it as something that the whole community can benefit from," he said.
Smith wants to turn the old school into a place where children can come to learn and play, he said. His former home community in North Carolina had a similar place, and it's something he believes Rogers City youth could use. In addition, he'd start leagues for indoor volleyball, basketball and, if possible, soccer.
It's one of several ideas Smith said he has for the old school. It also could be used to host special events, like karate exhibitions or musical performances, Smith said. He'd call it something like the Rogers City Conference Center, and possibly incorporate the Grambau name as well.
Board President Michael Marx told Smith he and the board will take his offer under consideration, but would like to see a more formal proposal. While Smith would like to submit one, he said he can't afford an attorney to draft one. He's asking if any might be willing to help for free.
Beyond that, Marx and Superintendent Katy Xenakis-Makowski declined to comment on Smith's offer.
Smith said he hasn't approached anyone else for help, although he's had a few positive comments on Facebook. To open the center he'd likely need to conduct fundraisers, and hopes to keep the building open by holding weekly community flea markets.
"During the colder months, and rainy months of summer, people could come and set up tables at maybe a 15-by-15-foot station," he said. "They'd pay $10 for that day to use that space, and sell their personal items as if they were at a yard sale."
Once the new center is established, Smith said he would like to conduct more community outreach out of the building. He'd like to open a soup kitchen and a "family aid shelter." This would be a place where people could stay if a fire or other emergency forced them out of their home.
When Smith moved to Rogers City two months ago, he'd already done extensive research on the town, he said. His original plan was to open a computer and website design business, but he later decided there wouldn't be enough customers. When he started looking around at what the small city needed, he decided on a place for kids to learn and play.
However, there weren't many places available with the space Smith wanted, he said. Then the Grambau Center came to his attention. He pitched the idea on a Facebook page connected with www.rogerscitymichiganonline.com, a website he runs for those who want to learn more about the city.
Smith believes his idea is a good one, good enough that if he can't make it happen, he'd like someone else to try.
"If I'm not able to do it, I'm hoping that someone else who may have financial backing may try to do it themselves," he said. "In reality, it's not a matter of if I can do it or not, but that it gets done."