De­mo­li­tion of his­toric barn de­layed

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Devlin ede­vlin@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Eric_Devlin on Twit­ter

SCHUYLKILL TWP. >> A his­toric barn in Schuylkill Town­ship will avoid the wreck­ing ball for at least an­other year, thanks to a new agree­ment reached be­tween the town­ship and the Phoenixville Area School Board.

The school board unan­i­mously ap­proved a 15-month con­tin­u­ance with Schuylkill Town­ship for con­tin­ued use of a barn on the site of the for­mer Meadow Brook Golf Club. The con­tin­u­ance al­lows the school board to work through the de­tails of the barn’s future as it de­cides whether’s its worth it to save the struc­ture. The

Schuylkill Town­ship Board of Su­per­vi­sors al­ready ap­proved the con­tin­u­ance at its last meet­ing but needed the school board’s ap­proval too.

“Schuylkill Town­ship wanted us to vote on this as quickly as pos­si­ble,” said board Pres­i­dent Dan Cush­ing. “So that’s what’s bring­ing this as new busi­ness as op­posed to wait­ing un­til next week. I don’t think it changes the out­come but they did re­quest it specif­i­cally and I think it’s ap­pro­pri­ate for us to honor that mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s re­quest.”

The barn dates back to the Civil War and is part of a larger farm­stead on the Meadow Brook prop­erty built be­fore the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War. The dis­trict pur­chased the prop­erty two years ago in or­der to fur­ther its plans to build the in­com­ing Phoenixville Early Learn­ing Cen­ter and Manavon El­e­men­tary School, cur­rently es­ti­mated to cost $71 mil­lion. Last month, mem­bers of the Schuylkill Town­ship His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion lob­bied for its preser­va­tion after dis­trict rep­re­sen­ta­tives asked for a per­mit to de­mol­ish the build­ing. The school board then agreed to hold off on that re­quest and in­stalled a fence around the struc­ture.

At a re­cent school board meet­ing, board mem­ber Kevin Pat­tin­son an­nounced the dis­trict has ob­tained in­sur­ance for the barn and must now de­cide what steps will be taken re­gard­ing the build­ing’s future. To do this, the build­ing and grounds com­mit­tee will as­sem­ble a task­force com­posed of school board and com­mu­nity mem­bers, to serve in an ad­vi­sory role.

The school board will need to make sev­eral de­ci­sions about the barn start­ing with how to ren­o­vate the space. If it were to ren­o­vate the struc­ture to serve as of­fice space, es­ti­mates show such work would cost ap­prox­i­mately $1.2 mil­lion, Pat­tin­son said. If it de­cided to turn it into a class­room, it would cost ap­prox­i­mately $1.8 mil­lion.

The Schuylkill Town­ship His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion hired its own con­trac­tor to es­ti­mate the cost of sim­ply ren­o­vat­ing the build­ing so it’s struc­turally safe, and found the price tag would be ap­prox­i­mately $600,000. That fig­ure does not in­clude the cost of re­me­di­at­ing con­tam­i­nated soil left over from old en­gine oil, Pat­tin­son said.

If the board de­cides to move for­ward with restor­ing the his­toric build­ing, it must first de­ter­mine what to do with that soil, he said.

“There’s no way they can move any equip­ment in there to do the dig­ging,” he said. “I be­lieve it has to be done by hand. There’s sim­ply not enough space to do any ex­ca­vat­ing.”

If the board were to choose to sim­ply de­mol­ish the barn, it would only have to cover over the soil. By de­mol­ish­ing the barn, the dis­trict would spend ap­prox­i­mately $52,000, ac­cord­ing to Stan John­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions. How­ever, by selling off the build­ing’s tim­ber and leav­ing the stone on site, it could save ap­prox­i­mately $10,000.

The board would also have to de­cide what it would do with the barn after ren­o­va­tion. One sug­ges­tion in­cluded leas­ing it to a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion. The dis­trict would have to de­ter­mine the le­gal­ity of such a move first, Pat­tin­son said.

An­other sug­ges­tion would be for the board to con­sider the farm house and the barn linked and pur­chase them both.

“What is the dis­trict will­ing to spend for both of these buildings?” Pat­tin­son said. “We will have to dis­cuss how far are we will­ing to go as a board in sav­ing these two his­toric buildings?”

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