Letter: Don’t waste taxpayers’ money on barn

As expected there are mixed reviews on how Avon should proceed in terms of its involvement and funding for the effort to save the Hanhnewald barn. This is an emotionally-charged issue and the “save the barn” advocates are using the deadline of June 1 to put pressure on the Council to fund the effort. We maintain that this should primarily be a philanthropic endeavor, not a burden on Avon taxpayers.  We base our concerns on the following:

  • $5-10 million of taxpayer dollars can be better spent on other prioritized projects such as affordable housing initiatives, wildfire mitigation, water rights protection, recycling efforts, improvements to the existing recreation center, etc.
  • There is no need for an additional community center. We already have community centers in the form of the recreation center, the Town Hall meeting area, the park, schools etc. Let’s maintain and use what we have. If the council differs from this perspective, significant justification will be needed.
  • The town has not demonstrated it can successfully manage a project of this magnitude without significant cost overruns.
  • The town should not divert its resources: time, money, staff, or town council energy to manage this project. 
  • While some believe that the save the barn initiative has merit, we don’t believe the town should be the primary funding source for this type of project. If the project proceeds, the effort should be privately funded. Additional financial assistance might be available through state or federal grant funds for historic preservation efforts. Funding efforts should be spearheaded by the “save the barn” advocates.

 So, how should the town proceed?

We believe the council should decouple the community center idea, which has significant cost implications from the “save the barn” initiative.

The town has already spent $120,000 with an architectural firm to understand the feasibility of moving and repurposing the barn with conceptual ideas for interior design. Given the fact that many taxpayers are not in favor of spending any tax dollars for this effort, we recommend the town move forward with the least expensive option to save the barn. Simply dismantle the structure and store the wood for 2-3 years for future historic reconstruction, salvage or reuse. 

During this time the “save the barn” stakeholders and historic preservation advocates can source funding and find the expertise and team members needed to execute the rebuilding and repurposing of the barn. The town council could, to show good faith, split the cost to disassemble the barn among three parties; the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the historic preservation fundraising group and the town of Avon.  

The total cost for dismantling should not exceed $100K and the council should not commit more than $50K to this effort.

Place the onus on the stakeholders, the historic preservation committee and the “save the barn” advocates to source the funding and execute the plan with minimal involvement from the town council and no additional commitment from taxpayer money.

Pam and Peter Warren


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