To The editor:
My husband and I decided to move back to Vermillion after living 25 years in Rapid City. Although our friends questioned a move from the Black Hills to a small town in East River, we knew what we were doing. We wanted the sense of community and the cohesiveness Vermillion affords. We wanted to cheer on the Tanagers. We wanted the cultural and sporting events USD offers. We wanted to live where history has significance.
So, I was puzzled when I heard that the County Commissioners discarded the proposal to build a new jail and refurbish the courthouse, the stately historic building that has stood aloft, looking down upon our main street for over one hundred years.
I attended the County Commissioners’ presentation at the Fair Grounds and listened to the architects share the different proposals. As they explained the plan that included restoration, I sensed that the architectural firm wasn’t too keen on preserving an old building. (That plan was not chosen for the ballot.) Restoration is difficult work; however, it can be done, as witnessed by the countless homes and structures over a hundred years old which have been preserved to continue their contribution to our sense of who we are in this community.
Before dismissing the attachment to a historic building as emotional, please consider what it means to have a direct connection to our history. Consider the economic advantage of a vibrant, vintage downtown with a functional courthouse as its anchor. Consider the dignity and integrity a restored courthouse will lend to our judicial process.
Certainly, build a new jail, a new public safety center (perhaps using land near the existing courthouse). Certainly, provide offices that are comfortable, functional, accessible spaces for the employees and the public within the historic building. Definitely, work with architects who have the vision to restore historic structures and can design alternatives to gutting it.
Unfortunately, this means a NO vote on the June 8 bond issue. Fortunately, it does not mean the issue is finished.
Let’s go back to the drawing board, communicate clearly, and figure out a way to design a proposal that answers all our county’s needs and honors our county’s roots.
Our move back to Vermillion was the right one. We have found the warmth and community we sought. Now we just need to know that our courthouse will remain operational, keeping watch over us all.
& Joe Kavanaugh