A barn that has stood for 126 years in Powell will, in all likelihood, be demolished after Powell City Council discussed its options for the condemned structure, located behind the city’s Public Service and Parks Department at Adventure Park.
The barn, which was originally built in 1894 and had additions built onto it in the 1940s and 1990s, had been used as a storage area for the Public Service and Parks Department up until 2014 when the barn was condemned. In particular, the second addition to the barn that was built in the 1940s has been deemed to be in poor and dangerous condition.
According to a city report, the original section of the barn remains in “decent” condition, as does the most recent addition.
City Manager Steve Lutz said the Finance Committee weighed the cost of demolishing the structure against rebuilding the whole barn or renovating the sections in disrepair. According to Lutz, demolishing the barn would cost the city an estimated $12,000, compared to over $100,000 to construct a new storage structure. The suggestion of the Finance Committee, Lutz said, was to demolish the “attractive nuisance.”
“It’s the kind of thing that it would have been nice to potentially restore the oldest part of it and use it for something better than storage,” Vice Mayor Tom Counts said. “But we’re at the point in our city’s financial history that this has to be down on the list because there are so many other things that are so more important that we use our scarce resources for, and that’s unfortunate.”
Mayor Jon Bennehoof said he was “conflicted” on the structure, but added he wasn’t sure there was any real historical significance of the barn “other than the fact it was built then (in 1894).”
A few members of the public were in attendance to speak on the barn, including Powell resident Lucy Hunter, who lives in one of the condominiums just north of the barn. Hunter said she has enjoyed the barn and the wildlife the barn often attracts, and she asked whether there had been any type of discussions about a possible fundraiser in the community to support a renovation of the barn, or utilizing donated time and labor to cut down on the cost of renovations.
Hunter said she was disappointed in the city for letting the barn deteriorate into its current condition, and also for not exploring different revenue streams to support a renovation. She added, “We keep tearing down our history, our heritage in this country.”
Ken Nekic suggested council reach out to the Ohio or National Barn Preservation Society for potential help, noting Ohio is one of the most active states in the country in regards to preserving old barns. He added the Mount Vernon Barn Company, which utilizes material from old barns to either rebuild the barn in a new location or use the materials for other purposes in their Mount Vernon Millworks line, might also be an entity to reach out to in regard to the barn.
Following the closing of the public speaker portion of the discussion, Councilman Brendan Newcomb said the city would need an additional $34,000 on top of the $11,000 potentially appropriated for the barn’s demolition just to save the original structure of the barn.
Councilman Brian Lorenz speculated that cost could end up being even higher given the poor state of the building’s structure.
Bennehoof wrapped up discussions by saying, “There are a lot of potential liabilities … it’s all very interesting, and I don’t know that we’re going to act on it tonight. We’ll probably take (the fund appropriation) to a second reading … If there are some things that were able to be brought forward in the next couple of weeks with respect to proposals, that might be something we could entertain before we ring the bell for the barn for the last time.”
Later in the meeting, during the discussion on appropriation for the funds to demolish the barn, Powell Law Director Gene Hollins clarified that approving the appropriation would essentially be council’s decision on how to proceed with the barn.
“In essence, you’re making your decision as to whether to demolish it through the appropriation,” Hollins said. “Your formal decision to demolish or not is, frankly, through appropriating the funds for it.”
However, it was noted that appropriating the funds would not bind the city to the decision to demolish the barn, should they decide to inquire about the potential alternatives the public speakers suggested, nor would the barn disappear overnight because funds were appropriated.
While the sentiment of all of council was that the city’s best option would be to tear the “attractive nuisance” down, two council members lobbied to give the interested public the chance to pull something off.
Bennehoof made a “personal request” to take the appropriation to a second meeting “just to keep my word to the folks that were here and give them a chance to do a little research, and perhaps we can research it.”
Newcomb said the people coming up with the additional $34,000 to save the barn would be “a miracle,” but he voiced his wish to take it to a second reading in order to at least give them the opportunity.
Counts closed by saying that waiting until the next meeting to make a decision was not a big deal to him, but added, “That $34,000 number is an estimate. We don’t know exactly what that is going to cost, and every project I know that is any type of restoration project, you’re always going to find something that is going to cost more.”
Following a vote to suspend the rule requiring three readings of the ordinance, the adoption of the appropriation passed with a 7-0 vote.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.