Future of Hahnewald barn still uncertain
AVON – June 1 will come and go this weekend, and the more than 110-year-old Hahnewald barn will still be standing.
The beginning of the month was set as a deadline by the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District for the town of Avon to intervene in the barn’s future, and the Avon Town Council came close to carrying out a plan that would have moved the barn into town — approving the measure by a 4-3 vote — but that decision was overwhelmingly rejected by voters.
And while the June 1 deadline prompted Avon to hire architects to study options for the barn in 2018, as June of 2019 arrives the district has yet to solidify a construction schedule for the Avon wastewater treatment plant expansion, a process that will require the removal of the barn from their property.
“We knew there was a possibility that we might be having to at least do some prep and move some things around on the site, so that’s why we said June 1,” said Diane Johnson with the district. “But we are still in the estimates for the project — they’re really expensive — so we’re trying to figure out which parts we can bite off and when is the realistic start time … and we don’t have those answers yet.”
Not the first deadline
When the district adopted its most recent wastewater master plan, it started becoming obvious that the Hahnewald barn would have to go.
In fact, June 1, 2019, was not the first deadline placed on the barn.
The district’s wastewater master plan was adopted in 2012 with statewide regulations in mind, regulations that limit the discharge of nutrients from wastewater treatment facilities to waterways, which will require the expansion of treatment facilities within the district.
At that time, the district put a 2013 deadline on any efforts to save the barn, which was blocking the expansion effort at the Avon wastewater facility.
“We thought the first project we were going to do was at Avon,” Johnson said. “And then as we started looking more into our wastewater master plan it was like wait, hold on, we can do some other things. So we started buying ourselves time, buying them time, but also doing what is best for our taxpayers and rate payers and the overall water quality — what we need to achieve in our wastewater master plan.”
The district decided to expand the Edwards facility first, and that project was completed in 2016.
“Once we knew Avon was actually the next project, and there might be a chance that we were in construction or prepping for construction, then we (issued the town) more of a hard deadline,” Johnson said.
‘If some savior came in’
Before Avon gave the barn’s options a thorough examination, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District had considered studying alternatives to save the barn. The possible costs of that endeavor discouraged the idea, however.
Avon then hired Anderson Hallas Architects to outline some options for the barn, and identify the cost of those options. Anderson Hallas’ contract with the town was about $120,000.
The architects worked together with the town to identify their prefered alternative, a plan to move the barn to the site of Avon’s former town hall. The first phase of that alternative was estimated to cost $1.6 million, and it was to be followed by two more phases which were also estimated to cost millions.
Those price tags, Johnson said, were likely to blame for Avon voters overturning the idea, and will also be the reason why the district isn’t able to save the structure, if that becomes the case.
“If some savior came in and said ‘we’ll take it,’ we’ll do that, but otherwise we’re trying to figure out what’s the right way,” Johnson said. “But no, we don’t have a decision yet on how the barn will go away, or when the barn will go away.”