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Speakers Urge Preservation, Prudence on City Hall Question
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Speakers imageWhiteville City Hall was on the minds of two speakers at the City Council meeting Tuesday, and they had different agendas.

Janice Young of the Reuben Brown House Preservation Society urged the board to do everything possible to save the 1938 building, while Justin Smith suggested the board "consider that rebuilding on the site may be a more prudent option.”

City Hall was closed last year while staff and council seek a solution to the mold, structural problems, lead paint and asbestos in the structure.

Young told the board that Preservation North Carolina, a non-profit architectural heritage group, is willing to assist the city in evaluating, preserving and if necessary, selling the building.

Speakers image2"The building is a huge part of our local history,” she said, "and we hope it can be preserved as a city hall. It represents so much to our community, and is an important part of the Madison Street corridor.”

Smith said that his family has lived here for five generations, and applauded the council and preservationists for wanting to save the structure, but urged caution.

"I would support renovating the facility if it can be done at a reasonable cost and if we can be assured the problems won’t return,” he said. "If not, I believe our tax money can be better spent elsewhere.

"As the father of two Whiteville residents under the age of four,” Smith said, "I admit I am biased in favor of the future. I am in favor of police and fire protection, good drinking water, economic development, parks and recreation and sidewalks.

"There are lots of needs, lots of opportunities to improve our city, and we have to be judicious in how we spend our limited resources. Most people probably agree we should save City Hall – in theory. But the real question is, save City Hall at what cost?”

Mayor Terry Mann noted that council members Robert Leder and Sarah Thompson have been reviewing the proposals from five firms interested in helping the city on the project. Restoration is still the top priority, he said.

"I don’t appreciate the fact that people come up to my wife in the grocery store and ask when we’re tearing down City Hall,” he said. "Everything I have heard is that this board is in favor of saving it, if it’s at all possible. Nothing has been set down – we’re just now looking at the architects to see who is the most qualified.”

Mann said that the city will have to make some tough decisions regarding the property.

"Most of the people I know who are in favor of saving the building can afford a two or four cents tax increase,” he said. "At the same time, we have a hundred or more people come in here each month and pay their water bill on the last day, and some get cut off. Not everyone can afford to pay more. We have a lot to look at, and it’s still very early in the process.”

By Jefferson Weaver

Article and Images Courtesy of and as Published February 22, 2016 in The News Reporter www.Whiteville.com

 
The Reuben Brown House Preservation Society is an IRS Code 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions to the RBHPS are fully tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes.

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Whiteville, NC 28472