City, 1; Citizens, 0

Published 3:04 pm Friday, April 21, 2017

To the Editor:

Many of you may be aware that city council members Richard Brooks, Larry Beeman and Doug Mercer, along with our City Manager Bobby Roberson, who presented the request, recently voted to demolish a historic home owned by the library which means the city owns the property. The property is located at 415 W. Second St. The property was bought by the city in 2015 for $80,000 using taxpayer money. While you may not care about historic preservation, I hope you will care about how this happened.

At the January city council meeting, the argument was presented that the house was termite-ridden and structurally unsound and unfit to be used for any library activities. At that meeting, several citizens protested this demolition and asked to have a professional engineer/architectural firm examine the property to find out its condition. This was agreed to by the council at no cost to the council.

The Washington Area Historic Foundation arranged for this inspection to happen and presented the findings to the council and city manager. We were told the house demolition would be addressed after that assessment. Several times, we (WAHF) asked when this item would be put back on the agenda. We monitored the posted agendas and never received notice about the house demolition coming up for a vote.

Now here is where the story gets interesting and disturbing: at the last city council meeting (April) the council went into closed session. After closed session, they came back to the council chambers and took a vote on demolition of the home. Only two council members voted to save the house, Virginia Finnerty and William Pitt. The problem with this vote is it was deliberately hidden from the concerned citizens who had been following this issue. This reeks of cronyism, and we should all be concerned that decisions are being made in an underhanded and devious way. I believe elected city officials have spent your money in a reckless manner and have then tried to push it away from public scrutiny.

The council recently cut funding to the arts, the food bank, the downtown district and other non-profits due to limited funds but had no trouble finding $80,000 to buy a property and then will pay even more money to demolish that property, only to have a larger parking area.

This year is an election year for city council. I will be using my vote to elect officials who will be honest and aboveboard with its citizens. I will lobby as hard as I can to replace the council members and the city manager who do not represent an honest and open government. Please vote for your city to have a new council in November!

Rebecca Clark