The Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors has approved $1,500 toward the "mitigation" of the county-owned "north building" in Freeport.

Last week, supervisors approved a contract with Skyline Construction for demolition of the structure for approximately $64,000. During its meeting Monday, the Board met with members of the Winneshiek County Historic Preservation Commission who have recommended the county "mitigate this adverse effect," of tearing down the building, by funding a "data recovery project."

Commission Secretary Dave Stanley of Decorah said he would recommend Lloyd Bolz of Decorah, because of his experience in the field, to produce photographs, measurements and develop two-and three-D models of what the building looks like from various perspectives before it comes down. The supervisors voted 4-1 to have the Commission coordinate the data collection. Board Chairman John Logsdon voted against the motion.

Skyline will give the county 10 days notice of when it intends to begin demolition, Logsdon said.



Two parts

The north building is the last remaining county "poor farm" structure in Freeport and is attached by an annex to Wellington Place, a county-owned, privately managed care facility that leases its buildings from the county for $1 per year.

Last August, the Wellington Place administrator requested the north building be taken down for various health-related and economic concerns. Because the care facility's sprinkler system is tied to the north building, Wellington Place has been spending about $12,434 annually to heat the unoccupied structure.

The north building last served as the men's unit for the county care facility (now Wellington Place) in the early 1990s before the new nursing unit was built. Since then, it's been used for storage.

The motion approved by supervisors Monday calls for the mitigation work to be done "subject to the schedule of deconstruction" by the contractor and "subject to access by Wellington Place."

Mitigating the impact of removing the north building will be done in two parts, according to Supervisor Dean Thompson. The first, which will be done by Bolz, will deal with physically documenting the building. The second part will focus on the historical and cultural significance of the building.

Stanley said Bolz charged $500 for providing similar documentation of the caretaker's house, which was located next to the north building and removed last year. Stanley said the architecture of the caretaker's house was "quite common" but the north building could be one of a kind in the upper Midwest, and possibly the country. It was built as early as the 1860s.

Stanley said his firm, Bear Creek Archeology of Cresco, would do the second phase of mitigation, called an "inventory form," pro bono as he has staff available, similar to what was done for the caretaker's house. He said the building's history, before 1965 and the advent of Medicare and Medicaid, is not well known. For the 100 years prior to that, the county funded the care of residents at the county farm/care facility.

"We're talking about the history of health care in this county. It gives historic perspective to how things developed to where it is right now ... these steps through time," Stanley said, adding that compiling that information could be done at any time.

Deborah Bishop of Decorah told the supervisors there are citizens who would still be willing to pay for a State Historical Society of Iowa technical advisory network (TAN) study that would provide valuable information about the building. She also said the north building won't be deconstructed in the same fashion as the caretaker's house.

"This is a very painful experience, and it is going to be a pile of rubble, but I do appreciate what you're trying to do to mitigate it," an emotional Bishop said before she left the Boardroom.

Supervisor Floyd Ashbacher asked Stanley and Commission Chair Steve Johnson whether their organization had funds to pay for the first phase of mitigation that Bolz will do. Johnson said the funds are earmarked to provide matching funds on a grant application and to reprint a historical book.

Johnson said since the Commission, through Stanley's firm, can complete the inventory form, he hoped the supervisors would agree to fund the initial phase of mitigation.

Ashbacher asked what the time frame would be for Bolz to provide the physical description "and everything we need to know about that building," and Stanley said it would probably involve two or three days on site, and likely a follow-up visit.