Editorial: Saving the ’54 building a hard cause to back

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Save the ’54 building?

That’s a little like &uot;Save the mosquitoes&uot; or &uot;Save the polio virus.&uot;

How about &uot;Save the old Farmland building?&uot; Heck, parts of it are probably still good.

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The 1954 addition to the Freeborn County Courthouse has been a lightning rod for controversy for years. Some people want it torn down because it’s ugly and cumbersome, and they say it’s inefficient. Others see what appears to be a sound building &045; doesn’t look like it’s falling apart, anyway &045; and they do the math to figure out it’s only 48 years old. So, save it, they say.

A small group that gathered in front of the building Tuesday set up a sign bearing that message. The county board has voted, 3-2, to tear it down and move the offices within into a new addition to the planned judicial center complex.

But along with the indisputable aesthetic advantages of removing the building and exposing the old courthouse, it seems clear that building new office space to replace the ’54 would be cost-effective. It would cost only a few hundred thousand more than remodeling the old building. A lot has changed since 1954, and there’s no reason not to spend a little extra &045; relatively &045; to build a modern facility for modern office workers.

One point made by the protesters, however, should get an answer. They want to know whether the county will put the courthouse project to a public vote. It’s a question more and more people seem to be asking, and it’s getting to be time when county leaders should have an answer for the public about whether a referendum is going to be held.