Questions aired over funding of Barnard House renovation

Supervisors eye loan fund left over from open space purchases

By Kelli Siehl, Staff Writer,

The historic Barnrd House. Pocopson officials are looking at whether remaining funds from an Open Space line of credit can be used to pay for the roughly $1 million renovation project.

POCOPSON — Should the township spend between $800,000 and $1 million to renovate “an old building?”

That question was asked at Monday evening’s township Supervisor’s meeting during discussion of projected costs to renovate the historic Barnard House. Supervisors’ Chair, Steve Conary said he received the report, by Melton Architects earlier in the day and did not have the opportunity to completely review the document, although supervisors  say they were not surprised by the numbers.

He noted that the $800,00 range was expected in order to make the structure usable for township offices and to lease portions of the space to the Kennett Underground Railroad.

When questioned whether the township has the money — $32,000 to generate a bid package and up to a million dollars — to spend for renovations, Conary said the project could be paid for with funds borrowed at the latter part of 2011 for use to purchase open space.  He said the township borrowed $2.1 million dollars based on appraisals submitted for the properties, “Turns out, with reappraisals and renegotiations, we came in about a million dollars less than expected.”

Since the township’s ability to purchase open space expired at the end of 2011, Conary said the million dollars, minus a probable penalty ,  could be applied toward the loan,  but  “since it carries such a low (2.7%) interest rate, using the money for the Barnard House has some appeal to it.”

Supervisors’ Vice-Chair Georgia Brutscher added that the township is already budgeting $50,000 per year to maintain the building in its current condition. Brutscher said the $50,000 would come close to covering the interest payment on the loan without taxing residents, “we could get a building that would be usable in two years rather than put out $50,000 each year to have a building that cannot be used.”

Township resident and former supervisor, Lauressa McNemar, stated that the Barnard House was given to the township and “is not just an old building…it is historically significant.” She said that previous township leaders held a planned vision for the property which included parking, picnic areas and access to the township’s extensive trail system. She explained that nearly $200,000 of the projected cost is specific to site work “which has nothing to do with the actual building” but includes items such as outdoor lighting, handicapped access, parking and septic.

The scope of the project has been scaled back — the original plan called for more renovated space and additional room being added to the building for community use. Now, those elements have been put on hold, to reduce the overall cost of the project.

Supervisors agreed that they need to obtain more information on the proposal before moving forward and would continue to seek grant funding for any recreational components.

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One Comment

  1. Steve says:

    Does this article say they rushed out and borrowed $2.1 million for open space purchases to beat the deadline, that the purchases actually cost $1.1 million, and now they are going to spend the extra million on building themselves offices rather than just paying back the borrowed money and reducing the open space tax?

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