ROCKLAND — The historic sheriff’s house built in 1868 was saved from the wrecking ball at the eleventh hour, thanks to John Spear, who went before the City Council Monday night to appeal the structure’s preservation.
But the house has been saved for only one week, as county commissioners await other options from the public.
The council passed a resolution in favor of saving the building, then called County Commissioner Gene Kenniston, who also agreed to save the building, which was scheduled to be razed at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The resolution asked county commissioners to consider options other than demolition of the building, which is “a significant part of Rockland’s architectural heritage.
“We would like to see it preserved for future generations,” stated the resolution.
Spear, who is a local resident, told the councilors, “`This is a mistake and a number of people share my feelings about losing an architectural treasure.
“Once this is down, the decision will be irrevocable,” he continued. “I have worked in a number of cities which have destroyed historic buildings for parking lots. This is not the appropriate project for demolition.”
He said the area would become “sterile” without preservation of the beauty and charm of its historic buildings.
Spear’s sentiments were applauded by the council.
Mayor Thomas Molloy said it was “unfortunate” that more thought was not spent on saving the sheriff’s building. The old jail adjacent to the house probably has no value and should be razed, council members said.
“It may be a proper decision, but I feel that a little more reflection, dialogue and discussion may be needed,” said Molloy.
“We all sat back and let it happen,” agreed Councilor Richard Warner.
Councilor Oram Lawry said the resolution to save the building was a good idea. After the city lost its historic post office in the late 1960s, “I would hate to see this torn down,” added Councilor Lewis Metcalf.
“I wish we could do something,” said Brian Harden of the comprehensive plan committee. “I would support the resolution as strongly as possible.”
The effort was also supported by Gil Merriam of the Chamber of Commerce, who had contacted Commissioner Kenniston before the Monday meeting.
The council also heard an update on the operation of the municipal treatment plant from Steve MacDonald and David Phillips of Whitman and Howard Engineering. The plant operation has been hampered by a massive inflow of storm water, which could be corrected only by a major construction project for new sewers and reconstruction of the city brook system, MacDonald said.
The project would be very expensive and no federal money is available, he said. In the worst-case scenario, he said, federal agencies could mandate that the separation project is completed, but offer no funds for assistance.
MacDonald said problems at the plant have been caused by the heavy flow from the FMC Corp., the largest user of the plant.
In an effort to control odors from treatment sludge at the landfill, the eingineering firm agreed to study composting as an alternative.