Avon barn decision stalled; special election unlikely
AVON — The Town Council stalled on sealing the Hahnewald barn’s fate on Tuesday, deciding instead to continue the discussion during its Feb. 12 meeting.
The 110-year-old barn is likely to be demolished in June if another plan to save the structure isn’t put into place, and with movers needing a March notification on whether or not they will be tasked with relocating the structure, time is running thin.
A three-phased approach to move the barn to Avon’s former Town Hall site came highly recommended by the town’s planning commission, with a $6.2 million to $6.7 million total cost estimate (demolition of former Town Hall included) on that plan estimated. But with the first phase off that plan coming in at $1.5 million, the council appears divided on whether or not to embark down that path.
While an ultimate solution for the more than 100-year-old structure’s fate is still unclear, one thing made apparent at Tuesday’s nearly three-hour long discussion was a special election to seek voter input before the movers’ March deadline is highly unlikely. The effort to seek a special election, discussed in late 2018, would have needed to be initiated on at Tuesday’s meeting, or in a special meeting before the end of January.
No motion was made to seek a special election, but motions were made to spend nothing more, and to spend a maximum of $50,000 more on the barn, and both failed.
In motioning to continue the discussion until the Feb. 12 meeting, council member Tamra Nottingham Underwood said she wanted staff to provide council with more information on what money has already been budgeted for the Nottingham Park area known as Tract G, and what expertise the town staff has with respect to grant writing. The motion passed 5-2, with council members Jake Wolf and Chico Thuon voting against the motion.
“I think we need to get more of the details of these funding mechanisms, and these numbers – which are scary, and I agree – these numbers will, I think, become manageable,” Underwood said. “And my hope is that we can begin to understand that we can take this opportunity and run with it in a fiscally responsible manner.”
RAZING VS. FUNDRAISING
More than 30 people attended the discussion, and many of them spoke on the record about the barn.
While two or three comments were in favor of using taxpayer money to save the barn, at least 10 were not in support of the idea. Ten more letters written to the town from people not in support of spending taxpayer money on the barn were read into the record at Tuesday’s meeting.
After hearing the comments, Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes said it was clear that there is no appetite among taxpayers to use public funds on the plan to move the barn to the former town hall site.
“But I do think that there is support for saving the barn,” Hymes said. “Tearing the barn down and saving the wood is not saving the barn, so I do not support that … what I support is hiring a consultant, a professional … to give us a good idea of how much money we can realistically raise to save the barn, in whatever iteration. And I think that we can do that in the short term and I don’t think it’s going to be that expensive.”
Hymes was also honest in her assessment of what she thought the outcome of a special election on the matter would be.
“I do not support sending this to the ballot, because it won’t pass,” she said. “I don’t think we should send it to a ballot to waste our staff time and money on a ballot initiative that would fail.”
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