POINT PLEASANT — Demolition of the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center is still the city’s plan of action.
At the last Point Pleasant City Council meeting, the council discussed a lawsuit that was recently filed against the city by Mason County Historical and Preservation Society (MCHPS) Director Kyle McCausland. City Attorney Michael Shaw explained oral arguments were held with the plaintiff and defendant and, on Saturday, June 29, Judge Anita Ashley issued an order dismissing the case, denying all of McCausland’s requests including injunctive relief.
Shaw explained McCausland has 30 days, by July 29, to appeal this decision and, in the case the order is appealed, it will be sent to the Supreme Court. Following that, McCausland has 120 days to perfect his case and the city has a chance to respond. Unless an order is made to stop demolition, the city can continue as was planned with their approved contract with Burgess and Niple, which will result in the demolition of the old river museum building and the rebuilding of a new structure. In the case of the building being demolished and then the Supreme Court ruling in favor of McCausland, the city would have expenses to pay that would have been covered by insurance for the demolition such as the equipment and contractors, etc.
McCausland is planning on filing an appeal.
“My goal has always been to try to save and improve the historic district and at the same time provide the river museum with what they need, now if the two are not compatible, then you need to make a compromise that does make it compatible and that has not been done,” said McCausland.
He then suggested other options for the council to consider explaining that complete demolition of the old river museum building and the rebuilding of a new structure is the worst option they have as this decision will destabilize the historic district.
McCausland explained, one option would be complete restoration of the building which would get the business up and running again, stabilize the historic district, and by utilizing tax credits, the city could be granted with at least a half million dollars to use as needed. Another option would be the old river museum building could stay in its current location and a new building in a different location in the city could become the home of the river museum. The city could auction off the old river museum building to an entity that would want become in charge of the building, such as the MCHPS.
“I think you’ve jumped to a conclusion and, unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s a tragic conclusion to what its going to do to the historic district…,” said McCausland. “To me you guys carry the kiss of death or the kiss of life for that street.”
Councilman Gabe Roush commented he feels he along with his fellow council members did not jump to their conclusions, but did their research and spoke and listened to people of the community and to residents within their wards to come to their decision. Councilwoman Pat Sallaz added the residents in her ward expressed wanting to keep the river museum on the river and are content with the complete demolition of the old building and the rebuilding of a new structure; however, in Councilwoman Jerrie Howard’s ward, the residents want to see the historic district maintained and are very concerned about the complete demolition of the old building happening. Councilman Rick Simpkins commented he personally voted in favor of the complete demolition of the old building and rebuilding of a new structure because of the claims by the two structural engineers, deeming the building unsafe to restore.
Jack Fowler, executive director of the river museum, shared his main concern is the welfare of the river museum as well as Main Street and Point Pleasant. Though he and his fellow river museum staff and the river museum board of directors prefer to keep their location, he looked into other buildings and lots in the city including the Double D Lounge. He commented this building would increase the amount of walk-ins, but would not be along the river. The cost of this building is $200,000.
“It’s been over a year and we still aren’t any closer than where we were…,” said Fowler. “I am concerned about the welfare of the museum and concerned about the welfare of Point Pleasant, what is the best decision for Point Pleasant.”
At the conclusion of the discussion, the council stood by their decision to continue to move forward with the contract with Burgess and Niple and the complete demolition of the old river museum building and the rebuilding of a new structure.
The council approved the first reading of an amendment to the city ordinance which states the council must consult the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) when dealing with buildings and properties within the historic district. With the amendment the city will not have to consult the Historic Landmark Commission for these dealings as the HLC is an appointed extension of the city council itself.
Erin (Perkins) Johnson is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.