To the Editor:
Historic Preservation is a hard sell.
As you may or may not be aware the Ely City Council voted last week to purchase the office building at 480 Campton St. more commonly known as the old JOIN office. If you’ve spent any time down at City Hall paying bills or anything in the last 30 years you may have noticed that very little has been done in the way of maintenance, up keep, or upgrades to City Hall in that time. Currently, City Hall is saddled with inadequate utilities, poor access, and a laundry list of deferred maintenance. Furthermore, the city has no permanent place to hold meetings. Once again, these problems have been accumulating for about the past 30 years and they certainly are serious issues.
There are some related problems to these immediate issues. The center of city government and sitting in the City’s largest park is a dilapidated building. How do you convince people and businesses to invest in a city where the city doesn’t seem to have will or foresight to invest in itself? More specifically in a downtown where businesses seem to be fleeing to newer business districts and the city leaders talk often about revitalizing the downtown the City’s cracked and paint peeling building speaks a lot louder than political grandstanding.
So what is the City to do? Certainly every problems has a solution and the City has a few possible fixes. The first option that has presented itself was an office building coming up for lease or sale within a stone’s throw from City Hall. It’s got space for offices and to have meetings. The building appears to have been well maintained and is much more accessible than the current City Hall. What’s more the City says it has the money to purchase the building outright. It all sounds pretty good and it certainly will be in the short run. It may even turn out to be a good choice in the long run, who knows. However, there are some issues this choice posses. What is to become of the current City Hall? Is it just become another dilapidated, empty building cluttering up downtown? Since the City will have already spent half a million dollars on their new building would they then have the resources to repurpose and reuse or dispose of their old building? What would be the effect on the moral and identity of our community that now calls an average office building the center of city government?
The second option would be to renovate our current City Hall. Most downtown revitalization projects tend to start with the renovation of historic government buildings or other public work projects. It’s an example of leading by example. The current building has been our City Hall since 1928 and while you certainly won’t find it on any list of architectural marvels it is part of our community identity. As I mentioned in the city council meeting, the Federal Government isn’t spending millions repairing the capitol dome because it’s a pretty building, it’s because the building is a part of our national identity. Also, in renovating the currently City Hall the city wouldn’t be multiplying the properties that it’s responsible for. Just because they move out of City Hall doesn’t mean that all costs associated with it just magically go away. In short, if they still plan to use the building for their parks crew of whatever, then they still have to pay for utilities, minimal upkeep, etc. Older buildings, generally speaking, made better use of natural light and are better suited to deal with summer heat without the benefit of air conditioning. Because of this a well renovated historic structure can often times be cheaper on utilities than most buildings that were built in the last 30 years. Renovating a historic community structure can have the added benefit of available grant funds which the city could use to leverage their funds for a better building then they could afford outright. Simply speaking, a renovated City Hall with a tax paying business (or two) occupying the building that the city has decided to purchase would be better for the community in the long run.
Unfortunately, renovating City Hall would do nothing to satisfy any of the City’s immediate needs right now. Zip! Zilch! If the city started right now on grant writing, planning, and budgeting for a full scale renovation or even a new construction project it could feasibly take three years or more to start to see work taking shape in the form of actual construction. There would be problems during the planning and definitely in the construction that would need to be overcome. Where do you put people while their area of the building is renovated? Expectations and certainly budgets would need to be adjusted. Probably most difficult of all before anything else would be getting the community involved and getting the majority of the community on board with a specific long term vision. Not easy things. For all these reasons and more historic preservation is a hard sell to fix immediate problems.
Nonetheless, it is past time for us as a community start considering the long term. City government talks a lot about cleaning up and rejuvenating. The first option, buying a new office building to house city government, doesn’t accomplish either of those objections. Not to say that with some commitment to a long term plan and the making of some hard decisions that benefit the long term view rather than a short term need that it couldn’t. While city government has made efforts toward improving the look and feel of our city and downtown it is going to take more than placing benches and homemade flower plants around town to affect the kind of change that city leaders talk about. While the steps taken are better than nothing, “better than nothing” is not an attitude that has the power to affect meaningful change.
To the Editor:
My name is John Law and I bought my home at 775 Lyons in Ely over 10 years ago. I have loved every moment I have spent there as a resident enjoying the many amenities as just another neighbor and taking in all the beautiful outdoor activities this quaint little town in Nevada has to offer. I actually bought my home the very first time I laid my eyes on the downtown park and the gaslamp lights along Aultman. Not only the golf, Cave Lake with resident Ranger Steve, the stock car races, local high school sports, the amazing friendly people, the church bells and the train whistles. The list goes on and on because Ely was not just a place where I had a second home but Ely had become a lifestyle reminiscent and familiar with regards of my hometown youth in a small town back east so much like Ely.
Well, unfortunately, six years ago I began a five year, horrific battle with Leukemia and I was the “Victor”. However, there were some negative outcomes that went along with the fight including a basic financial collapse and a full right leg amputation to name a few. Well, it is the amputation that changes everything. Now, I can no longer do the simple things like a backyard fire with marshmallows, a short ride for some world class ice fishing and participating in the local events, an Autumn ride through Success Loop. I no longer drive but even worse, it has become a chore to just get in and around my house that I have become to love so dearly.
So, the reason for this letter. I was up in Ely for the month of the holidays to start packing boxes for the move and at first, the unusually warm weather did allow me a chance to ride my manual wheelchair around town to check out the annual holiday events up and down Aultman for some shopping along with a visit a block away to the convention center to spend time with a very special city representative, Meg, (a true sweetheart and beautiful person). She is the sort of individual that makes Ely so special. I told her not to worry however, I gave her my word that we would have a white Christmas. Well, you know the rest regarding that special day. But, along with that, I was unable to attend my invite to Christmas dinner at the center but because I only had my manual wheelchair, I was sort of “snowed in”. So, the day after Christmas I called her to thank her for her hometown generosity and explained my situation and she told me about the Ely Bus. Being I never had a need for their service, it was one of the many kind gestures given by the city to the residents. So I called and spoke to Pam, another person that makes Ely so special. Along with scheduling a ride to and from the store for a few much needed items, our conversation immediately became like a conversation with a life long friend. Her kindness and concern for me was amazing and comfortable as a simple phone call could be. We scheduled and I was told when to be on the lookout for the bus, similar to the one I use in Las Vegas. As the bus parked in front of my house I managed to get out the front door in the 3” of snow but at the one small step to the gate, I slid and fell sideways off my wheelchair into the snow, luckily without apparent injury. As the bus driver, Ashley, saw me, she ran to my aid, helped me up, got me into the bus and secured me for the ride. I am a man on the higher end of the scale which made her task even that much more daunting. However, with a few kind words and her full attention, I was as good as can be. Then, on arrival at Ridleys, Ashley was right there giving me her full attention with a smile on her face, making sure I was good to go. When I was done at the store, a quick call to my new friend Pam was all it took for my trip back home. I actually used the bus one more time and I was given the same level of professionalism and kindness that I had experienced the first time.
I am writing this because I want people to know how a simple act of courtesy can make such an impact to someones life. Pam, Meg, and Ashley are just three people doing routine acts of courtesy with such a high level of professionalism and they are truly caring about the people they deal with on a daily basis. It is this kind of representation that makes Ely, Nevada one of the greatest places I have ever been in my 60 years. After 40 years in the casino business along with owning a few businesses over the years, I have gotten pretty good at reading people and these girls are a true representation of what has become a void in the world today. Although I will no longer be a true resident of Ely soon, I have found what I can say is “The Center of the Universe” right here in our own back yard. I will never stop visiting and enjoying all the beautiful activities that are part of what makes Ely, Nevada such a special place in my heart. Along with Pam, Meg, and Ashley, thank you to everyone in town. See you soon.
Las Vegas, NV