2017-03-02 / Views

What value would you put on old county barn?

our opinion

What value would you put on an old barn?

That’s a question being asked of county commissioners, whose answers may change as new facts about the barn in question emerge.

The white-faced barn is located across from Myles Kimmerly County Park near Maple City and was once part of a complex of county-owned buildings known collectively as the “poor farm.” It’s where indigent residents took refuge.

By all accounts, the barn is in need of repair beyond slapping on a layer of white paint. The problem extends to — or starts with — the barn’s foundation, which we had been told was 93 years old.

But hold on. Barn aficionados say the building is older.

And they contest an assertion that the barn was shipped to Leelanau in the form of a Montgomery Ward kit. In fact, they’ve linked local barn builder John Sheetek and a Traverse City architect with construction of the barn in 1911, not 1924.

A contingent of folks who take a keen interest in Leelanau lore and old buildings has taken the conversation about the barn’s future to a higher level. Included in the group is Barbara Siepker of Glen Arbor. Ms. Siepker, who wrote the book, “Historic Cottages of Glen Lake,” believes the barn can be restored for a reasonable price.

Earlier estimates suggested $100,000 or more was needed to make the barn safe and useful. But in a letter to the editor we are publishing this week — Ms. Siepker’s first, which is somewhat remarkable given her penchant for writing and involvement in the community — she said estimates from local barn restorers put the cost at $32,500 to $37,720.

Ms. Siepker and others have called for the County Board of Commissioners to put off razing the barn for at least another month.

We concur. What’s the hurry?

Why not wait for a clear answer on the cost while gauging public interest in restoring the barn and coming up with alternative uses?

We don’t follow a “save the barn at any cost” philosophy. The county should take a fiscally responsible approach in determining the structure’s future.

But such an approach requires facts, and information provided at County Board meetings has been questionable. For instance, knowing the barn was built locally adds to its value. And having a firm grasp on its repair seems essential to good decision making.

There’s no doubt the structure provides a visible link to the history of rural Leelanau.

If the barn was on our property, we’d do what we could to keep it standing. So should the county.

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