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Resident expresses concern over historic buildings
March 28, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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Gering resident David Carter spoke to city council members Monday about his concern for some of the city’s historic buildings, which he said are simply disappearing.

Under his agenda item “Preserving Our History,” Carter said several buildings of historic significance have been sold, salvaged or completely destroyed. That represents a loss for future generations to understand and appreciate a part of the city’s history.

“I’m concerned for the future of our town for future generations if we don’t do more to protect and preserve our heritage,” Carter said. “I’d like the council to do what it can to restore and rebuild what we have left.”

Specific buildings Carter mentioned to the council were the former McKinley Elementary School and the former Central Church of Christ, which later became Lane’s Auction House before it was acquired by the city. Both buildings are scheduled to be torn down.

Carter also mentioned the old Union Pacific depot building at 10th and U Streets. That building is one of only a few on the UP line designed by the same architectural firm. That southwestern style design was also used for the passenger terminal in Los Angeles.

“I still think we have a chance to save these buildings and we have an obligation to do so,” Carter told the council. “I think working with the Gering Downtown Revitalization Committee might be an outlet to preserve our historic buildings.”

He said that even if McKinley is torn down, the answer isn’t to put houses in its place, but to rebuild a school to help with the district’s ongoing overcrowding problems.

Council member Larry Gibbs, who spoke with Carter earlier, said that McKinley becoming a school again is out of the city’s hands. The school board sold the building, which is beyond repair, and no one has stepped up with the millions of dollars needed to restore it.

Gibbs added he’s been working for about 20 years to procure the train depot building. Ownership should revert to the city in about a year, once the Riverside Discovery Center has moved all of its displays into their new facility. It’s still unknown what plans the city would have for the structure.

“We can’t save everything because we have to have progress,” Gibbs said. “Some buildings just aren’t unique enough to save once they’re worn out. I’m all for historic preservation, but we have to be selective. When we decide to preserve a building, we have to come up with the financing to restore it.”

Carter said the city might develop a policy for preserving the integrity of buildings before they become a problem and eventually unsalvageable.

“Just because a building is old doesn’t necessarily make it a historic building,” said Mayor Ed Mayo. “A historic building might also have health and safety problems that no longer make it a benefit to the community.”

Carter asked about the status of the McKinley building and Mayo said it will be torn down by June 1. A plan for removing the asbestos in the structure is currently being developed.
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