OUR VIEW: Investing in the future

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The photos and video of the old Mineral Wells school burning were heart-wrenching.

The news afterward, even more so — a “total loss” that would likely have to be demolished.

Just like that, the 106-year-old largely brick building that provided education to students in high school, junior high and elementary was, literally, up in smoke.

The news of these things often makes us sick to our stomach. As the staff of a newspaper that celebrated its 126th birthday this year, we have a deep appreciation for the history in our communities.

And it’s always sad to see the loss of an old school, church, courthouse or whatever historical structure it may be. Often, it’s a building that has sat vacant and in disrepair for many years.

There’s a pretty good reason some of these buildings have been vacant for so long, and it usually begins with a dollar sign.

In the case of the Mineral Wells school, it took $14,000 in grants a few years back just to repair the roof to keep water out of the building. To bring it up to code and useable would have cost roughly $15 million, according to Mineral Wells Superintendent John Kuhn.

Just look at the Baker Hotel. Granted, its restoration is a much bigger ordeal than a school building, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a lot needed to get it off the ground. 

After sitting vacant for four decades, the Baker property was purchased for an estimated $1 million. The estimated cost to restore and renovate is about $65 million.

Finding investors willing to fork over that much is rough — but it’s infinitely harder if surrounding streets, water and sewer needs aren’t up to par as well. 

That’s where bonds come in to play.

People often complain about their streets needing repair, or run-down neighborhoods with vacant buildings. But when it comes time for voters to invest their money in the future, many balk.

It’s understandable to not want to pay more, but you can’t have it both ways.

We encourage you to take a closer look at future investments, either through building renovations, proposed ISD bonds for additional buildings or anything else that aims to make the community better in the future.

And if you have a passion for history, get involved in some local groups that focus on historic preservation. The Palo Pinto County Historical Commission and the Parker County Historical Commission are two great places to get started.

Both have Facebook pages as well as websites where you can obtain contact information and more details: www.palopintohistory.com/ or www.ParkerCHC.org/.

Weatherford Democrat