With a huff and a puff, Creston City Council voted to take the Harman House down.
On the northern cusp of McKinley Lake sits a brick house, built in 1951 by Harman Angus Farms, which serves as a reminder of Creston’s roots for some long-time residents. The Harman House, also known as the Taylor House, sits on two prime lots for the new Cottonwood Subdivision.
“When you go around the lake, that is what you see,” said Park and Recreation Board Chairman John Kawa. “It means a lot to those that have been here a long time.”
Kawa fought to the end to keep the house in its place. Kawa appeared before the council with more than 300 signatures in support of keeping the house and to have it utilized by the Parks and Recreation Department. Councilwoman Nancy Loudon commented that in her time on the council, she has never seen that number of signatures come before the council.
“The people who have signed this petition feel very strongly this house should not be torn down,” read Kawa, from a prepared letter to the council. “If you vote the way the people of Creston feel, you’ll have no choice but to vote to keep the corner as it is.”
Kawa petitioned to keep the brick house in place and to have it utilized by the Parks and Recreation Department as a residence for Parks and Recreation Assistant Director John Anderson.
The Parks and Recreation Board members believe it would be beneficial to have Anderson, or another park employee, available to keep a watchful eye on the park.
“If you’re that person who is living there, how would you feel about almost being obligated to be working 24/7?” asked Councilman Larry Wagner. “To have people come up and knock on your door on your day off ... because they know that you’re there?
“If you have someone there, there’s gonna be less chance of something,” said Gary Lybarger, former Creston building inspector.
“We’re on the city council. We’re used to this,” said Wagner. “I get people knocking on my door all of the time. But, I am an elected official, I volunteer to do this. I’m not being paid as a salaried employee to do this.
“I just think that’s a lot to ask of an employee,” he added.
In the public forum, Parks and Recreation Boardmember Jane Brown expressed her concern about the lack of coordination and how the city plan fits in to the Parks and Recreation renovation program.
“We have been working on that (renovation) for about eight years now,” said Brown. “We’ve been taking it step by step, diagramming it out pretty thoroughly. We’ve stuck to our plan every year ... and been real diligent in programming what we are doing.”
According to Brown, the Parks and Recreation Department and board have been making changes to the waterway north of the park to decrease the amount of silt in the lake.
“I can’t find anything that shows where your engineer and our engineer have actually worked together and if our plans are coordinated or if anything is being done to compliment what we’re doing,” said Brown.
Those in suport of tearing down the house want the land available to expand the Cottonwood Subdivision.
Councilman Loyal Winborn said the direction has changed.
“When we were first approached, it was, ‘Hey, we’ve got a city employee having a hard time finding a place to live, we have a city-owned property that we are doing nothing with, can they temporarily stay there?’” said Winborn.
A month-to-month lease was signed.
“There was no long-term deal,” said Winborn. “When I agreed for the purchase of this home, I always thought it was going to be part of the subdivision. I never once thought we were going to keep this with tax-payers dollars. I never thought this was going to be a benefit for a city employee. I never thought that taxpayers would have to pay for renovations on this house or I would have never approved to buy it.”
While Winborn praised Kawa and the Parks and Recreation board for their effort, he did not agree with the future purpose of the home.
“I don’t think where you live factors how good of a worker you are,” he said.
The meeting closed with a motion to table discussion on the method of removal. A work session will be held after the regularly scheduled Creston City Council meeting Feb. 19 at city hall.