Better communication


To the Editor:

Switzerland County has needlessly lost another piece of its architectural heritage with the demolition of the sheriff’s office. Am I pleased that the stone jail structure was kept? Absolutely. But had the two-story attached brick office building outlived its usefulness? I don’t think so.

Back in November I wrote a Letter to the Editor expressing my concern over the lack of communication involving such issues as demolition of our architectural heritage, and how preservation can be a powerful economic development tool. Since then I toured the old sheriff’s office and jail and did an Internet search that revealed countless examples of adaptive reuses of old jails. I also attended two County Commissioner meetings since then, but was focused on saving the unique hexagonal brick privy in the courthouse yard that also faced demolition unless the historical society found the funding to restore it. No mention of the jail was made at either meeting. (Thank you to the County Commissioners, Switzerland County Tourism, the Community Foundation of Switzerland County and the Vevay/Switzerland County Foundation for contributing the money to preserve the privy.)

So to the people who have called, to those I have encountered personally, and to the others who are wondering why no effort was made to prevent the demolition, I am sorry I was not effective in knowing what was going to happen. I reiterate my sentiments stated in my last letter . . . we need to do a better job of communicating. Whether a citizen was in favor of or objected to the demolition, should they have been made aware of such a significant change? I attended meetings when plans for the courthouse annex and jail were discussed at length, and the impending demolition concerned the City Roller Mill and the privy. No mention was made of the old jail and sheriff’s office.

I am guilty of not attending the majority of the county government meetings, and know they are open to the public. Are the agendas available to the public prior to the meetings? Could they be posted in the newspaper or on the new courthouse bulletin boards a few days before the meetings? I believe elected officials and voters would both benefit from improved communication.

Martha Bladen, president

Switzerland County Historical Society