2017-03-16 / Front Page

Historic county barn’s future rests at a crossroads

County does not act on demolition bid
From staff reports
The Leelanau Enterprise


THE COUNTYowned barn — commonly known as the “4-H barn” — across from Miles Kimmerly park has an uncertain future. THE COUNTYowned barn — commonly known as the “4-H barn” — across from Miles Kimmerly park has an uncertain future. The future of a county-owned barn built 106 years ago could go up in smoke or be linked to some of the most prestigious places in America.

To say the least, it remains cloudy.

An active group of county historians continues to lobby the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners to preserve the old barn, which is located on the north side of County Road 616 west of Maple City, and return it to usefulness. They attended the County Board meeting Tuesday with Laurel Jeris of Elmwood Township suggesting the barn be listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

Doing so, she said, would make it easier for those interested in preserving the barn to seek and receive grants to help pay for its repair.

On the other hand, County Board chair Will Bunek is preparing for the worst — that the cost to repair the barn, whose foundation is faltering, exceeds its value — by asking local fire chiefs if the barn could be razed through a training burn.


THE BARN at Myles Kimmerly Park either needs a lot of work or needs to be torn down, county officials learned during a visit there in May 2016. Pictured are, from left, District No. 5 Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little, District No. 2 Commissioner Debra Rushton, and County Administrator Chet Janik. THE BARN at Myles Kimmerly Park either needs a lot of work or needs to be torn down, county officials learned during a visit there in May 2016. Pictured are, from left, District No. 5 Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little, District No. 2 Commissioner Debra Rushton, and County Administrator Chet Janik. “So, that option is still out there as well,” Bunek said, causing barn supporters to grimmace.

But Bunek said the barn’s future already has been discussed at the County Board level for 20 years. It’s not worth estimated repair costs — which have reached $100,000 or so — to shore up a barn for storage use, he said.

“We should just give it to them (barn preservationists) so they can figure out what to do with it and how to pay for it,” Bunek said. “But if it doesn’t work out, I’m afraid it will just wind up in our hands again.”

For now, the barn has been spared if not preserved.

The Board of Commissioners took no action on the lone bid received to raze and remove the barn. That bid was submitted in the amount of $66,300 by JM Stevenson Enterprises of Grayling, which would stack and leave the barn wood.

According to Sevenson’s bid, “The real value of all material salvaged from the 4-H barn is more than offset by the expense ...”

County administrator Chet Janik said 28 firms were contacted seeking bids.

Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little offered a resolution postponing demolition of the barn and giving a committee 6-9 months to explore alternatives. Her motion was supported by commissioner Casey Noonan.

The motion was withdrawn after Janik noted that the County Board never made a decision to demolish the barn.

Both Soutas-Little and Noonan said they wanted to make it clear that they are not proposing spending county funds on an effort to preserve the barn.

Barn preservationists may take the next steps.

Janik noted that Steve Stier of Empire had volunteered to develop “requests for proposals” to determine the cost to preserve or improve the barn. Janik plans to discuss with Stier what the barn preservation group would like to propose.

Commissioner Debra Rushton said a constituent had floated an idea that the barn could be used to produce income for the county by renting it out for farm markets.

The barn issue will be on the board’s agenda next week for further discussion.

“It’s nice that we’re finally getting some public interest in the barn,” said Melinda Lautner, the longest-sitting commissioner who has sat through many county barn discussions.

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