The Rexburg City Council voted to move forward with the Rexburg Stake Tabernacle five-year renovation plan and end the Free Movie Monday program to hire more staff to manage the progress and raise donations for the project.
“About 120 tabernacles were built in the west, of those, only 20 still stand,” said Jed Platt, director of the Rexburg Arts Department. “So to even have one is very awesome and rare.”
This year the Tabernacle saw improvements in the sound system and ventilation plus a restoration of the windows. In 2024, the team hopes to repair cracks in the outer mortar, and future projects include renovating bathrooms, installing an elevator, expanding the basement and adding a south wing, as shown in the 3D rendering below.
The project aims for $760,000 in donations for 2024, and the city will match donations throughout the project. The motion passed unanimously, but only after long discussion.
Councilwoman Bryanna Johnson hesitated to increase the budget for the project, noting that the council had recently rejected other city expansion projects. Councilman Jordan Busby worried that the cost estimates were too low for some of the future projects.
The Tabernacle is the largest city-owned building and serves as the town’s civic center. Through this year, the town estimates that 50,000 people attended events sponsored by the arts department, several were hosted in the Tabernacle.
Why preserve the tabernacle
Platt gave some context to the renovations.
In 1911, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered to pay half the cost of constructing the Tabernacle, but Rexburg raised the full amount to build it through massive public support. When President Joseph F. Smith tried to send a couple thousand dollars to help with construction, the residents sent it back.
After the Teton Dam flood of 1976 left extensive damage to the building, the city chose to repair instead of demolish.
“There was a generation who sacrificed to build it, and a generation who rallied to save it,” Platt said. “It’s our turn.”
The city council also passed a motion for the creation of a historical preservation committee, the new committee’s goal is to get the Romance Theater listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Wastewater worker welcomed
During the meeting, the city council also honored Clint Smith, a member of the Idaho Rural Water Association who finished his apprenticeship after 300 hours of training and 4,000 hours of on-the-job learning.
Smith fought back tears while addressing the council.
“I graduated at the height of COVID-19 and nobody was hiring,” Smith said. “I lost all sense of stability, and to be given a chance to have a career here was really big.”
The Idaho Rural Water Association manages wastewater and drinking water for Rexburg. According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency, Rexburg uses 1.86 million gallons of water per day.