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Published: Saturday, 8/23/2008

Preservationists want to save Edgerton hall - but not own it

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Edgerton Village Council voted to make plans to sell the historic village hall to a nonprofit group that wants to restore it. Edgerton Village Council voted to make plans to sell the historic village hall to a nonprofit group that wants to restore it.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

EDGERTON, Ohio - The Edgerton Historical Society wants to see the 124-year-old village hall remain the centerpiece of this Williams County community, but members aren't so sure they want to own it.

Earlier this week, Village Council voted unanimously to have the village solicitor draw up specifications for selling the hall to a nonprofit organization that intends to restore it.

Village offices, in the meantime, are to be moved to the vacant Edgerton Middle School.

The move took people like Shirley Krill, president of the local historical society, by surprise. The group was formed last year, in part, to fight for the village hall and raise money to restore the opera house on its second floor.

"There's no way in the world we can take over this whole building," Ms. Krill said. "It would cost us around $8,000 a year just for insurance and utilities. What they're doing is walking away from the building after years of neglect They're just literally walking away and, we feel, dumping it on us."

Mayor Lance Bowsher conceded the village was, in effect, telling the historical society - if you want to save the building, go right ahead.

"In a nutshell, yes," Mr. Bowsher said. "We don't feel that we want to use taxpayers' money to invest in that building."

While local preservationists call the situation a bad deal for the community, the mayor characterized it as a compromise. "The way we see it, they fought to keep us from demolishing the building and they've talked from Day One about the five or 600 signatures of people who are in support.

"They've talked about numerous people who are willing to work on that building and donate their time. They've talked about a lot of people who are willing to donate money, so apparently they have the support to make that happen if they want to," he said.

"It's definitely what we feel is a compromise because we are not tearing the building down."

Ms. Krill is grateful for that, but she and other supporters had hoped to see the village renovate its offices, put a new roof on the building, and lease the second floor to the historical society.

"We're a small group, just getting started," she said. "We want to help our village keep this building and restore the upstairs, and maybe down the road we can do the rest of the building."

She said village officials made it clear they have no interest in acting as a partner in the project. "We've asked them repeatedly, 'Can we work together and make it a community project?'•" she said.

Mayor Bowsher said he would like to see village offices moved to the middle school in 30 to 60 days. He said the village will not have to pay rent, only utilities for the part of the building it uses.

As for building a new village hall, he said that is the long-term goal. And if there are no takers for the 1884 town hall?

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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