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Your Opinion: Demolition issue deserves county vote

Your Opinion: Demolition issue deserves county vote

April 27th, 2014 by Jenny Smith, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

The Cole County Commission's decision to raze the old jail and sheriff's residence showed an appalling disregard for our historic architecture and history. Of the many who made a statement at the fateful commission meeting April 16 there was only one person that agreed with them.

I have seen little support for this decision in the paper, the COC or the CVB. Where are the supporters for this vote? If there is any doubt the issue should be put up for a vote by the people. This is our history they want to take away. It should not be taken lightly. Demolition is forever.

The Cole County judges say they need a courtroom with a gallery that will seat 100. Renovation plans for the old jail could not meet those specs. The current large courtroom on the third floor seats only 75. Two and one-half million dollars and the destruction of a public landmark to seat 25 more people just does not seem like a bargain. Another option of expanding a current courtroom was nixed because there would be columns in the middle of the gallery. I will note here that St. Peter's Church has columns in the middle of the pews.

The old jail and sheriff's residence was paid for with PWA grant money in the 1930s and built by the renowned Richard Schell Construction Co. It is an elegant structure like its parent structure the courthouse. I am deeply disappointed in the county commissioners disregard of the people's history, for not planning better when the new jail was built, and for being insensitive to future generations that will be denied this connection to their past. They are destroying part of the unique identity of Jefferson City and taking a piece of our soul. Our history is part of who we are.

Saving this landmark property would not have even been a debate in Hermann, Booneville or St. Charles. Try telling them history does not matter.

This issue needs to be decided by a vote of the citizens of Cole County. Why should three men who care so little about our history decide this for all of us?