Committe will start raising funds to demolish former museum building

The Harbor View Subcommittee report and recommendation was provided at the Tuesday, June 18, Vermilion Parks and Recreation Board meeting.

Parks board chair Terry Parker conveyed the Harbor View Project Committee is suspending activity until they hear back from the parks board. The Harbor View Project Committee recommended to the Parks and Recreation Board that they move forward with demolition of the mansion and museum addition, and the creation of that property as green space as the next phase of development.

A subcommittee has been assembled to begin fundraising for this phase. Parker said this is something the parks board must act upon. If they accept this recommendation, then they will continue their fundraising. They are recommending just green space, not building or some of the other things that have been talked about. They will have a monstrous hole with this addition and hauling dirt is expensive, so they may want to consider expanding the concept. The people that are trying to raise the money are saying no let’s draw a line here, but his opinion is that it will be much harder to raise money for a tear down than it would be to add a couple things to this green space.

Board member Erica Cann said if they have people that are lined up to foot the bill for demolition then fine, but she thinks it would better if they could come up with something. Parker said the committee suggested that before they say green space they bring in a landscape architect to say what the best use of the property is, and at the same time they can look at the erosion that has happened on this property. It’s not a high bluff, but there has been plenty of erosion.

Cann asked if the entire project was going to be funded through donations or does part of the expense come from other places. Parker responded that during the original conversation it was stated that this would not be city, operating levy, or capital levy funds – this would be donations and grants. There are some foundations that have donated in the past, but the money is to be raised. In 2011, when they bought this – some of the heavier hitters are no longer around here, so it will be more challenging to raise the money. Doing this in phases is a desire to show the public that they haven’t forgotten about this and to keep the financing in manageable chunks.

Parker said the committee is in suspension until they hear back from the Parks Board, so should they give them the green light on fundraising for the green space, and then maybe go back to work on these other things. Board member Elizabeth Wakefield didn’t see this as mutually exclusive issues. She thinks the parks board can continue their path by giving them the green light. “This is work that is just being started, and they’re all trying to find the best approach and bring in the dollars to do this.”

There was extensive discussion regarding the decision to demolish the building. Parker said it’s painful in some ways, but there is no way they can sustain that facility since there is asbestos and mold. Mayor Forthofer said it’s becoming a hazard the longer it sits there. He wouldn’t even recommend going in there unless you really had to because the air is bad, there are leaks, and there are fire hazards.

Cann questioned if there were already donors committed to the project and what the proposed timeframe was for demolition. Mayor Forthofer said fundraising isn’t a science and they know people who know people, and some seem sympathetic to it. “They are waiting for the Parks Board approval and then they will start to do their dance.” Wakefield said it’s a very optimistic energetic committee and they seem to feel that they can do very well going full steam ahead on fundraising. Cann asked what the cost is for demolition and to make it a usable green space. Parker responded the quote for demolition came in at $450,000 because of the asbestos and mold mitigation. The costs to make it usable green space hasn’t been determined yet.

After continued discussion of the demolition, fundraising efforts, green space, and other possibilities including adding restrooms to the property, the board approved a motion to accept the Harbor View Project Committee’s recommendation and asked them to give input on the landscape architect on the best way to shape and use the site and consider the erosion issues that have occurred, and to pursue fundraising for the demolition and creation of the green space.

Mayor Forthofer said the board may want to make a notation to the finance director that all future funds must be approved by the parks board. The board members agreed and passed a second motion stating that any excess donation funds for the museum must be approved by the Parks and Recreation Board.

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