Historical Commission Fights to Save Cole County Building

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COLE COUNTY - Recent controversy over the fate of a Cole County historic building spurred members of the Jefferson City Historical Commission to host a meeting Tuesday to draft a letter to the county commissioners opposing demolition.

The old county jail and sheriff's residence have been designated as a landmark building since 2010, but the county's need for a second full sized courtroom has commissioners considering tearing it down.

Jeff Hoelscher is the Eastern District Commissioner and says the county wants to make sure it is using the property efficiently.

"We want to look at the best use of the property," Hoelscher said. "We do have some facility needs, office needs, and the courts have indicated they need another courtroom."

Hoelscher said the amount of concerns from people living in the county has caused him to reconsider the historic value in the buildings.

"Personally I don't see much historical value in the old jail," Hoelscher said. "We've had a lot of people voice their concerns about it though, so we've had to take a step back and make sure that what we do is in the best interest of the people."

The commissioners are weighing the options between tearing the building down completely or just renovating the inside of it.

"Overall it's going to take more money to knock it down and rebuild it, but we'd get more square footage and per square footage is ultimately what you have to look at," Hoelscher said. "If we renovate it we'll have the actual cost to renovate it. Plus it will need a new roof, new boiler, and new windows that will all add to the cost of it."

Bill Case is the vice chair of the Jefferson City Historical Commission and said he thinks the building is an important part of the city's history. He said the historical commission is hoping to make the commission consider saving the buildings.

"We are going to draft a letter and say that we would like the commission to really consider preserving these historic buildings," Case said.

Case said the building adds to the history and beauty of the city and said he thinks the commission should just renovate.

"It's just a part of Jefferson City history so we want them to preserve the building itself," Case said. "We want to let them remodel the inside, but we still want the historical view of that old building."

Terri Rademan lives in Jefferson City and said she thinks the historical buildings are an important element of the city.

"People come to see the capitol, but they stay and visit the rest of the city because we have the historic buildings that give them a sense of nostalgia when they walk by them," Rademan said.

Rademan said she would like the commissioners to look at other options to meet the needs of the county.

"I would like for the commissioners to do a renovation on the courthouse to meet their needs," Rademan said. "If they can't do that I'd like to see them move to the empty second floor of the brand new jail right across the street because the county already owns it."

The commissioners agreed to make a decision on April 16, but Hoelscher said he does not think a vote will happen that day. Hoelscher said he thinks the vote is likely to be pushed back until all options for the building are explored.