Greg Sekula, director of the Southern Regional Office of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, contributed the following to the Tribune as a guest column. It appears today. We're reprinting the piece in its entirety.
As has recently been reported in the media, a group of concerned citizens of Floyd County has expressed a desire to investigate the option of saving the historic two story section of the former Floyd County Home on Grant Line Road. This group has dubbed itself “The Friends of the Floyd County Home” and continues to grow in numbers as this issue garners increased public attention.
In response to the numerous articles and the Jan. 27, 2008, letter to the editor written by Pam Prince, president of Floyd County Youth Services Advisory Board, I think it is imperative that a number of points be addressed to clarify and frame this discussion and ensure that it is portrayed accurately from our viewpoint:
1. The concern for saving the former Floyd County Home is not an 11th hour revelation on the part of preservationists. The issue was raised by the New Albany Preservation Commission and Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana in letters written August 20, 2004, and May 16, 2005, respectively. The concerns went unheeded by county officials who claim that they had no knowledge of community interest in preserving the building.
2. Advocates for saving the historic building are not advocating for continued use of the annex as the youth shelter. We see the merits of constructing a new facility that is more conducive to modern day living accommodations. Our group, however, does desire to have our county officials sincerely study the costs involved in retaining the main historic sections of the former county home and utilizing this structurally sound building for office uses related to support services for the youth shelter operations or other functions as deemed fit by the county. If this option has indeed been studied, then as taxpayers of Floyd County, we respectfully request an opportunity to review those studies, including the cost estimates developed.
3. Larry McAllister, County Council President, acknowledged at a Jan. 22 site visit of the annex that there is not a statutory requirement that counties provide a youth shelter. Mr. McAllister explained that the County is providing this service to Floyd and surrounding counties because there is a recognized need for this service and the shelter creates a revenue stream for the county. Given this reality and the fact that citizens are today faced with property tax uncertainty, it is important to acknowledge that the citizens of Floyd County are being asked to support and ultimately pay for a $10 million dollar capital project that is not a required function of county government.
4. It has been stated that the existing building will likely remain standing until the new building is finished and ready for occupancy. Thus, it appears that there is time to further study re-use of this building without necessarily impacting the construction schedule of the shelter. Given what we have seen of the proposed campus plan for the annex site, it appears that the footprint of the two story section of the historic county home is outside the footprint of the proposed youth shelter building and the associated parking lot. Retention of the two story sections of the original building (main central block and wings) will undoubtedly necessitate some site plan and engineering adjustments to the campus plan. However, we would contend that such costs are potentially minimal when compared to the cost of demolishing a usable building that can continue to serve the people of Floyd County.
5. Demolition costs of the annex are conservatively estimated to be in the neighborhood of $120,000. - that is $120,000 of tax payers’ money. Could this money not be put toward the rehabilitation of this piece of our history? The demolition cost does not factor in the cost of improvements already made to the building in recent years, at tax payers’ expense, which would be wasted through demolition, nor the additional strain on our landfill that the demolition debris would provide.
In order to accurately determine the feasibility of retaining and rehabilitating portions of the county home for office use to equip our county leaders with the best information to make a fiscally responsible decision, it will be necessary to study the approach that I have outlined. Our group would like to hire an architect from outside the area to evaluate our recommended approach. The County’s cooperation in providing access to all relevant studies, reports, plans, financing, and cost estimates that have been prepared at taxpayer expense in connection with this project is needed. Additionally, access to the building by the selected architect must be granted so a rehabilitation assessment can be made. Cooperation and assistance from the County’s hired architect is also necessary to share any relevant information with the consultant architect. If the County is agreeable to this approach, The Friends of the Floyd County Home intend to pursue independent funds to cover the cost of this study without asking the county to contribute financially to the investigation.
I would, however, ask our county officials to approach the study with an open mind and to be willing to re-consider the fate of this piece of Floyd County’s heritage if the facts and figures demonstrate that retention of the building is a fiscally prudent and feasible option.
Diggin' in the Dirt: 7 Million Dollars
Tribune guest column by Vincent Klein: Floyd County reader believes now is the time to proceed on youth shelter
NA Confidential: North Annex? It's time to address Floyd County's political culture and its congenital cultural amnesia.