Wollenmann house "too important to lose"

by Lisa W. Hoppenjans
The first of two public hearings in preparation to apply for a $500,000 grant to preserve the Wollenmann house was held last Tuesday evening, December 14, in conjunction with the Ferdinand Town Council meeting. Three members of TTHM Properties LLC, the consortium that purchased the property at 1150 Main Street in August, were present, along with Nathan Held of Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission and Ferdinand Historical Society member Rock Emmert. Held outlined the process. A grant proposal to the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) is due January 14. The application itself is due March 18.

The grant would enable the Ferdinand Historical Society (FHS) to purchase the house, restore its exterior and replace old wiring. Required matching funds — approximately $56,000 — will be raised through FHS fundraisers. Potential uses for the house are still being explored.

FHS cannot apply for the grant on its own — the town council will need to apply on its behalf. The town council had looked into acquiring the historic home last fall, in hopes to convert it into a visitor center but, since council members had assured residents that no tax money would be used — and because acquisition of the property was a prerequisite for grant application — the idea was abandoned.

TTHM purchased the property in August after it was learned a demolition permit had been requested. The three couples and one individual who make up TTHM — Richard and Kathy Tretter, Alvin and Diane Hoppenjans, Jim Mehling and Sue Ellspermann and Ed Talucci — do not stand to profit from the purchase, but hope to recoup some of their investment.

Two grants from Indiana Landmarks have already been received — one for a feasibility study and the other to have the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Both will make the OCRA grant application more appealing, noted TTHM member Kathy Tretter. The group, along with FHS, has been brainstorming as to possible uses for the property, including installing a commercial kitchen, Tretter said. An account is being set up through the Dubois County Community Foundation to accumulate the matching grant funds.

"It's at least worth a shot to try," Tretter said. "It's too important a house to lose." In order to apply for the OCRA grant, the town council would need to designate the property as "blighted" sometime before March, Held said. Then, a meeting would be set between the town council, FHS and OCRA's Ellen Harper, who would outline requirements and offer suggestions to make the application more appealing. The council would also need to authorize the grant submittal and agree that matching funds would be provided through FHS.

Rock Emmert then offered comments in support of preserving the historic structure. "I think, years down the road, the community will be thanking this generation for preserving our history," Emmert said. "As kids, we were taught to respect our elders, don't waste and take care of our things. "This is good for all of us."

At the close of the hearing, council president Ken Sicard noted, "I guess we should formally agree to sponsor the grant application and offer our support."

"I'll absolutely make that motion," exclaimed councilwoman Debbie Johnson. Ron Weyer quickly seconded. The vote was unanimous. "Thank you all," Johnson told those FHS and TTHM members present. "What a tremendous gift you're giving your community." Written comments may also be submitted to Indiana 15 prior to the March grant application.

Council president Ken Sicard made several 2011 appointments during last Tuesday's meeting. Scott Tretter was reappointed to the Parks Board for a four-year term; Don Foerster and Brad Haas were reappointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals for four-year terms; and Foerster was also reappointed to another four-year term on the Plan Commission.

The council reappointed Clerk-Treasurer Bev Schulthise to the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission Board, where she currently serves as board treasurer.

Council members also:
• Will purchase three variable frequency drives (VFDs) at a cost of $10,900 for oxidation ditches and a blower at the wastewater plant. With projected energy savings, it is believed the devices will pay for themselves in less than two years. The VFDs are also believed to reduce wear and tear on equipment.
• Authorized Sicard and Schulthise to execute a contract with Strand Associates to engineer the bicycle/walking paths project, pending attorney review. The project is being partially funded by a TE (Transportation Enhancement) grant.
• Approved Philip Wolf's request to hold a 5K run/walk on May 7 as a fundraiser for the Forest Park cross country program and authorized police assistance
• Amended the employee retirement plan to comply with new federal laws.
• Signed a two-year EDIT (economic development income tax) plan, earmarking funds for street projects.
• Adopted ordinance 10-13 designating stop sign placements at East 16th Street. That led to a discussion about a possible crosswalk across Main Street at 16th Street, but that would required state approval. The matter will be researched.
• Adopted ordinance 10-14, dealing with employees' medical insurance contributions.
• Adopted the 2011 salary ordinance, granting pay increases to town employees, the town manager, zoning administrator and attorney.
• Signed a resolution transferring $26,000 in surplus MVH (road) funds to the Rainy Day fund, to be used for capital outlays in 2011.
• Released a$70,000 performance bond to Dave Hoffman, developer of Sunrise Estates.
• Adopted ordinance 10-16, amending street standards for subdivisions.
• Set a Board of Finance meeting for 7:25 p.m. on Tuesday, January 11.
• Learned from Schulthise that Ferdinand's assessed value rose a little over $2 million from last year(from $107,248,199 to $109,470,680) and the tax rate will be $.567 per $100 of assessed value, a slight increase over last year's $.5644



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