|
|
News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • County offers deal to move historic house

  • Pike County Commissioner Matthew Osterberg offered to give the Victorian-style, 1898 Kenworthy House to the Historic Preservation Trust of Pike County, along with a parcel of land next to the Columns Museum, and on top of that, provide the $40,000 the County would have paid if they had to demolish it.
    • email print
  •   Pike County Commissioner Matthew Osterberg offered to give the Victorian-style, 1898 Kenworthy House to the Historic Preservation Trust of Pike County, along with a parcel of land next to the Columns Museum, and on top of that, provide the $40,000 the County would have paid if they had to demolish it.
        In exchange, if the Kenworthy House -otherwise known as the Judge's Chambers and standing next to the 1874 Courthouse where the County wants to build an annex, - were sold, $100,000 would be transferred back to the County, Osterberg explained.
          Bill Kiger, a former Milford Councilman and a member of Concerned Pike Taxpayers replied to Osterberg at the March 5th Commissioners' meeting about the option of moving the house, "The Kenworthy is not expendable; it is an icon on our main street... moving it would take it out of context."
       The group works with the Historic Preservation Trust of Pike County, using their P.O. box address in Milford.
         The County owns the empty lots on Broad Street between Cherry Lane and the Columns Museum. The site is only about 1500 feet down the street from where the old house stands now. Miller Oil Company used to have a gas station there.
        Interviewed later, Kiger elaborated that the Kenworthy House has been at the present location since 1898 and adds to the landscape of the street and town square. "[Moving it] loses its historic importance, which is not acceptable to us," Kiger said.
         Citizens in the audience continued to raise questions and complaints about the annex proposal, in part covering the same ground as the previous meeting.
        Formally known as the Concerned Citizens of Pike County, the loosely organized group of residents is opposed to the current courthouse annex plan and seeking alternatives to removing the Kenworthy House and putting the addition on Broad Street. They are now calling themselves, "Concerned Pike Taxpayers" and have a Facebook page. They claim as many as 450 members.
       They state on top of the page that they consist of "Pike County citizens committed to addressing the needs of Pike County's court system without diminishing Milford's National Historic District."
       Kiger reiterated that their group wants in writing, why an annex could not be built in back of the wood frame Kenworthy House, attaching to it in back.
        The Commissioner said that the board must defer to their engineer, Michael Lamereaux of McGoey, Hauser & Edsall, that the old frame house is not adaptable to the County's needs. Reminding this was "rehashing" the last meeting's discussion, Osterberg reminded that the engineers says such a plan would require a an excessively expensive four story annex with two stories underground.
    Page 2 of 3 -     He asked Kiger if the County would want to hire the engineer to spend thousands on an analysis of that idea, when a better plan is to move the Kenworthy House.
       Another man in the audience said that the citizens' group would do the study with their own engineer and architect, and wanted to know if the County Engineer's basic data could be shared to help their architect.
       County Solicitor Thomas Farley said the citizens would be provided any information that are entitled to have, but Lamereaux and his company has the right to protect his own work product. "We can't force him to give up what he did," Farley said.
       The Solicitor asked the group to make their requests for information through the Right to Know documentation, so there is a "paper trail."  If the County can't release something, the County must state why and the requesting party can appeal to the state Office of Open Record, he noted.
       Kiger wanted to know if the County has considered "slowing down the project and engage with us for a better solution."
        Chairman Richard Caridi stated that Verizon has sent the costs to move their utility wires in back of the courthouse, but has not yet responded with legal justification why the expense would be on the County. The cost is between $450,000 to $500,000.
       This figure is needed to help the County determine the viability of building the annex in back instead, along West High Street. The Keystone law office building would have to be purchased and moved. The Commissioners have noted that the projected costs to take this option is over a million dollars more than keeping the annex on Broad Street, where the Kenworthy House sits.
        Farley said that they sent their findings to Verizon and are waiting for their response. Verizon sent the costs in writing and a contract to sign, which Caridi added the Commissioners are not signing.
        The Solicitor said that if the utility lines are in the right-of-way, the County may be able to force Verizon to bear the costs of relocating them.
        Kiger stated in the interview afterwards that the Commissioners are "taking their chances" for approval from the Milford Architectural Review Board (ARB) and Borough Council. Although the County met with the Concerned Citizens group early on to look over engineer drawings, Kiger said that process should have continued. He said that County should be engaging in dialougue with the group over the table, to find a common solution.
       Concerned Pike Taxpayers have been seeking information from the County through Right-to-Know requests and will move forward on their own, Kiger said. "We're steadfast," he added.
    Page 3 of 3 -    The Historic Preservation Trust of Pike County, of which Kiger is a member, worked hard and long to   have the National Historic District in Milford established, he said.
       Another point, Kiger said in the interview, was that if the County were to succeed and place their annex on Broad Street, removing the Kenworthy House, this would set a precedent. He said  that in that case, the National Historic District in Milford, the ARB and ordinance that seeks to protect the historic character of their town, would be weakened. Kiger said that the change to the historic downtown would be lasting, degrade property values and negatively affect business.
       Pike County Commissioners meet on the first and third Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Administration building, 506 Broad St., Milford.
    Online:
    www.facebook.com/concernedpike
    www.ConcernedPike.org
      • calendar