Barnes House needs your help

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My Views by Stephanie Jessie

 About a week ago, I wrote another editorial about that old yellow house in Mount Washington at risk of destruction (formerly referred to as “the Barnes house”.)

Unlike the first one I wrote back in September urging residents to care about the house, this one criticized the mayor and city council for, well, not caring.

There is a group of residents, largely composed of the Mount Washington Historical Society, working to raise the necessary funds to ensure the city keeps a bit of its character in its downtown area. 

I love it. I love the work that they are putting into it, the attention they’re bringing to it and the reassurance they give me that it’s okay to be passionate about a house we get nothing out of other than a piece of nostalgia and a unique view when traveling the city.

But I was mad because, while we the residents might not get anything from it, the city sure as heck would.

And that’s what my editorial was about.

It was reminding the city, who has offered land to move the house to but nothing else, that they would be the ones receiving the rental checks each month from the multiple tenants the house could provide offices or apartments to. 

The city would be the one gaining the historical ambiance which could only help improve the city’s attraction to tourists.

So why should the residents scrape up $70,000 for a building that the city would reap the benefits for? 

That’s like me asking our readers to help us raise enough money to pay our expenses, but then still charging for the paper and pocketing the income.

I was mad. Residents I spoke to were mad.

But then I went to the source of the anger and darn it if they didn’t make a point and ruin my entire editorial.

Community Planning and Development Director Lori Puchino reminded me that the land itself is a large donation on the city’s part.

Fair enough, but I still wasn’t convinced the city was doing enough.

Then Mayor Barry Armstrong laid it out in a math problem and, well, there’s a reason I’m writer.

His equation (purely in estimates) has the land costing $60,000, moving the building to the new tract at $60,000 and the necessary renovations at $100,000. 

Total, that is $212,000 the city would be investing in the building without fundraising.

Should both the first and second floors be rented at $2,000 a month each, it would take four and a half years to make a profit on the building (not including interest and taxes and all the other parts of the equation that may cost more than we guessed.)

Looking at it that way, I can understand why the council would be hesitant to make that sort of investment. But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up hope.

The way I see it, there are still two options that keep the house around for generations to come.

The first involves residents continuing to work to raise the money, softening the blow of the costs and creating a more appealing number for the council to act on.

The second involves residents contacting their council members and letting them know how they want their tax dollars spent. 

If I were a council member and I heard from a large amount of residents saying they wanted that money spent on the building rather than sports fields or restaurants (I’ve never been athletic nor do I eat out often), then I think I would be able to justify the investment.

I hope you caught that both of those options have a common factor: residents. It’s up to you all. 

If you want that piece of Mount Washington history to say, you have to act and you have to act soon.

I strongly believe the city should capitalize on its history. Already, there are banners and engraved stones at the entrance of the city boasting about being the Crossroads of Kentucky. 

Why not continue to use the city’s history throughout other parts?

Give the city that edge that other places have lost. As many have pointed out when I’ve talked with them about this, once it’s gone, it’s gone. We can’t come back in ten years and say we wish the city still had that sort of feel because it will be too late. We can’t come back in ten months and say that. Residents need to step up now.

I commend the Mount Washington Historical Society and those working to raise the funds and awareness needed to save the house. And I can understand the city’s hesitations. However, I think it is time for more to step up and either give some money or encourage their council to make the investment in a building that will financially benefit them more than it would anyone else working to save it.

As always, citizens can help by contacting city officials and letting your opinions be known. Contact information can be found on the city’s website at mtwashingtonky.org or by calling City Hall at 502-538-4216.

Residents can also let their voice be heard across the county by sending a letter to the editor at editor@pioneernews.net. I’d love to know where each of you stand on this.