June 15, 2012

If This Courthouse Could Speak …

Posted in Endangered buildings, Friends of Stone Bank, Photos, Updates tagged , , , , , , at 2:39 pm by stonebankblog

It would tell us that it should stand for another 100 years.

But it can’t speak for itself, so the McLean County Heritage Preservation Foundation wants to set the record straight.

Last week, the nonprofit group created and placed an ad in the local paper to dispel a persistent misconception about the  endangered 1907 courthouse.  A misconception that is further endangering  the old courthouse.

McLean County Historic Preservation ad about the 1907 courthouse which has been slated for demolition by the McLean County Commissioners.

In an email, Betty Kost, who is a member of the McLean heritage group, told the Stone Bank Blog that there is confusion about the difference between bat guano and histoplasmosis spores — and that the local news reports have said the building is contaminated, when the scientific tests show that it is not.

Here’s a quote from Betty’s email:

“After 3 years of testing was done in the newer and older portion [of the courthouse] on air, surface and guano testing, no positive tests were found until one positive histoplasmosis sample was found in an air sample, (not in bat guano), in the newer addition.  A hepa filter was used, and no more positive tests were found.”

Betty notes that histoplasmosis spores can be found anywhere — in chicken coops, barns or other places where that birds roost — and can be carried on birds’ wings, beaks and feet.  Hunters, landscapers, farmers etc. can transport the spores on their clothing or shoes, too. But bats can get it in their systems and spread it in their guano.  This does not mean that the spores found in the courthouse were brought  by bats.  The courthouse serves many hunters, landscapers, and farmers, so it easily could have come from a different source.

The point, the preservation group says, is that the courthouse is NOT contaminated. Period.

Wouldn’t it be a shame to see this lovely, historic building demolished for no good reason. It’s not a threat or a danger, so why not give this group time to create a plan for reusing it?

So, if  you can, why not send the McLean County Historic Preservation group your encouragement, your ideas and even some cash? They have a big fight on their hands to save this building. (Contact info. is in their ad.) And you can contact the county commissioners at the addresses listed in the ad, too.

And give a “like” to this post! It’s always good to know the message is getting out!

As always, thanks for reading the Stone Bank Blog!

June 11, 2012

Endangered Courthouse

Posted in Friends of Stone Bank, History, Life, Updates tagged , , , at 12:03 am by stonebankblog

1907 McLean County Courthouse slated for demolition

The historic McLean County Courthouse in Washburn, ND, will be demolished if a citizens’ group can’t turn things around. (Minot Daily News photo)

Shocking. It just never stops being a shock: when elected officials train their eyes on a historic structure and decide to “make things better” by tearing down a community’s past. Ohfercryinoutloud!

That’s the fight going on in North Dakota’s McLean County. The county commissioners are determined to have the 1907 courthouse demolished to make way for a new building — and a group of determined citizens is working frantically to save the building.

Dennis Kost, of Washburn, is one of the leaders of the nonprofit McLean County Heritage Preservation Foundation, the group scrambling to save the building. At issue is whether or not the old courthouse is contaminated with bat guano. Kost says his group has test results that show the1907  building is NOT contaminated– but that some airborne guano was detected in a 1963 addition to the older structure.

“Our goal is to get the truth out,” Kost said on Friday. “It’s so hard to do.”

Kost  said his group became so frustrated with the inaccuracies in various news reports that it spent the money to place an ad in the McLean County Extra to make sure that McLean County residents could get the whole story.

“They (County Board members) say it’s contaminated … and it’s not,” Kost said. “We need to put that to rest.”

Kost said the County Board has inflated the numbers on what it would cost to fix up the old courthouse, and even though they have rallied strong community support to stop the demolition, the effort has apparently fallen on deaf ears.

“They refuse to listen,” Kost said of the his group’s interaction with the board. “They are accelerating the demolition as fast as they can.”

The McLean Heritage Preservation group has offered a plan to convert the old courthouse to office space for the booming oil industry in western and central North Dakota. They estimate that the office space could generate $250,000 a year in rent — but county officials have shrugged off the proposal.

1907 McLean County Courthouse at left, new courthouse at right

The 1907 McLean County Courthouse will make way for a new building rising behind it if preservationists fail to save it. (Bismarck Tribune photo)

Following are links to several stories from the local news media about the situation, but Kost says there are inaccuracies in the reports.

They do, however, give general background information about the endangered courthouse.

Check out stories in the Minot Daily News, the Bismarck Tribune and the McLean County Extra.

If you want to help, the McLean Heritage Preservation Foundation is accepting donations for legal fees, advertising, etc.

Send checks to Gerald Nordquist, 218 5th Ave., Washburn, ND 58577.

And if you would like to reach members of the Board of County Commissioners, contact information is linked here.

So, let’s cheer the efforts of the Heritage Preservation group. We all lose when we see a great, historic structure senselessly and callously thrown away. And this scenario plays out again and again. Maybe this time, we can make it stop.