“If we tore it down and rebuilt it, we would have to comply with the modern building code,” Soff said.
City Manager Joe Chriest agreed. “If you want people to be able to go inside, you have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the building codes,” he said, noting that if visitors were able to look in from the outside but not physically enter the structure, they wouldn’t have to comply.
When Soff suggested that the city raze the cabin and put up a storyboard to tell its story, Boswell objected.
A retired teacher, Boswell recalled 16 years of annual field trips to the cabin. “It’s the best experience kids can have short of being there (during Meadville’s settlement days),” she said, noting that between 200 and 250 Crawford Central students continue to take 90-minute tours of the cabin during the month of May each year. “It’s living history,” she said.
Councilmember Nancy Mangilo-Bittner said she needs more information — including the cost of the project instead of simply an estimate — before making any decisions on the future of the cabin. “I need more facts,” she said.
“Volunteers built it,” said Councilmember LeRoy Stearns. “We should honor that. It’s the city’s responsibility — I don’t want to see it left.”
Councilmember Bob Langley stressed repeatedly that funding for the cabin should not be included in the city’s 2014 budget.
“It is ours,” Soff said.
While the city maintains the park, funding for the cabin has traditionally come from donations to the city’s Kenneth A. Beers Bicentennial Park Fund. According to the city’s annual budget reports, the fund, which has a balance of under $2,000, received its most recent contribution in 2008. City funds were recently used to pay for insect spraying at the cabin totaling approximately $3,000.
Both Foster and Soff expressed hope that the re-opening of the Mead Avenue Bridge, when it finally takes place, may re-kindle interest in the cabin.
Members of the committee agreed to report to council in the spring on the success of an effort launched as a result of the council session to raise the $10,500 necessary to temporarily stabilize the cabin.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.