Letter to the Editor
This is a frequent theme quoted from last week’s meeting and heard in various forms since.
My thoughts. Firstly, I would reiterate my gratitude to the EHHS back during its beginnings and first 26 years or so for saving the building and other great work they did during those golden years. I’m unaware of most of their activities since my time on the Board other than those mentioned in their newsletters, and I have always wished them well. That said, some points to ponder are below.
1) Doing nothing and kicking the can down the road again is a mistake due to the building walls and/or roof in areas likely shipping too much water. If we do nothing, she will sink, or come down in one way or another.
2) It is impossible to excite a community about major spending on multiyear renovation projects without a vision as to what it will become.
3) But you can’t totally cast the vision unless and until you get into that building and answer several key questions, some of which can’t be known until she is sealed (really sealed) and dried out for possibly a year or more. And yes, I’ve read the report.
4) Is there enough water pressure in that area to supply a fire-sprinkler system to all three floors if such were installed?
5) In my past historic renovation work, the cooperation and reasonable flexibility between the City officials doing their hard work of protecting citizens and ensuring quality building, and local contractors with actual experience with 100+ year old buildings built largely from Plant City area local materials of the day was dependable and essential to success. When you have an old building with no structural blueprints, materials that have deteriorated, methods many inspectors today have no experience with, and the myriad of other issues that go with these, mutual trust and flexibility are required as one must “in the field” engineer quickly a hundred things each week. Back then it wasn’t CYA when mistakes were found and dealt with and blame shifting to the other guy, and so too it wasn’t requiring architectural plans from out of state firms with 20 lawyers growling and every detail engineer stamped before you do anything, it was good and trusted builders working with good and trusted City Building departments and inspectors with a “when in doubt, overbuild it back better than it ever was” attitude. Those days are gone. It is no one’s fault, but they are.
So now what? If memory serves some things that will be needed to succeed are: Youth, for it can be helpfully blind to entrenched sacred cows. A trusted bold voice near and dear to the City, but not under her legal requirements to be overly careful in discussion (a recently retired commissioner comes to mind). A few get out of jail free cards from the City Building Department. One or two local contractors who have built at least one Lincoln Log home to completion and renovated at least one century old building in Plant City. Getting the County School Board to release any restrictions as to the future of that building (I suspect they would be all too glad to be rid of association with its future outcome either way). A few good official town hall meetings to glean for ideas and exhaust some unimaginative critics. And lastly, an endorsement for a committee of no more than seven to brainstorm in private and cast a vision.
I know this was tried once before from within the EHHS, but alas it was too soon perhaps. And certainly, many fearsome sacred cows were pawing the pasture and snorting in ways that shut it down. Perhaps it is time for one last grand attempt.
— Ed Verner