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  • Last modified 2560 days ago (Sept. 15, 2011)

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Singing the Bowron building blues

County Commissioner Dan Holub, an otherwise noble, diligent and at times insightful public servant, appears not to understand our concerns about the county’s plans for the 1887 J. Bowron Building. (See his letter to the editor on this page.)

We don’t know which line item of the county’s voluminous budget includes money for what project. Information like that no longer is included in the county’s public notices, which have been so trimmed down from the old days, when every check written had to be publicly disclosed, as to be almost unintelligible.

We also don’t know whether the county really needs several thousand square feet for additional offices, meeting rooms, and storage. We would think that declining population and use of computerized records instead of bulky paper ones might have helped, and that the county could save money by occasionally renting places like Marion Community Center for overflow meetings. However, the county generally does pretty good work, and if it believes it needs more despite less, we’ll take it at its word.

What concerns us is that, after hearing a preliminary estimate that it might cost $500,000 to repair the Bowron Building and $1 million to replace it, instead of immediately siding with repair, the county chose to spend money studying replacement.

The duty of any legitimate newspaper is to call attention to things the public might want to know about. Right or wrong, we saw this as a threat to the historic limestone building, which should be regarded as a community treasure.

We know the county didn’t demolish other historic buildings the community has come to lament. We also know it didn’t do much to preserve those like the Hill School and Elgin Hotel that were saved.

Some might wonder why it didn’t, but we’re content with asking for a clear and unequivocal commitment that, unless the cost is outrageously more expensive, preservation is always better than demolition.

We aren’t going to question why our taxes are higher but our roads — though fewer than they were a few years ago — are in worse shape. Things change. Government and its costs always grow. We just want to make sure our money isn’t frittered away on such things as studies that seem on their face to prefer demolition to preservation.

A clear and binding statement to the contrary would shut us up. But if the wise Mr. Holub, whom we truly respect, prefers to quote Thomas Jefferson, we offer these from among Jefferson’s more famous sayings instead:

“The press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man.”

“If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.”

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 15, 2011

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