Letter to the Editor: Save the school

Dear Editor:
Recent discussions about the Town of Meeker transferring ownership of the old elementary school to Rio Blanco County brought a large attendance to the town board meeting, most of whom were opposed to the transfer.
History Colorado preservation planner Patrick Eidman cited many successful examples of repurposed old historic buildings in small Colorado rural communities resulting in substantial economic growth for the communities. These success stories can be seen in a PDF file from History Colorado on how economic growth has occurred as a direct benefit of grants to repurpose the buildings and start new businesses, arts and cultural/performing arts venues, assisted living venues and many opportunities that benefit intellectual and physical growth and culture among youth, adults and seniors. This can be found at www.historycolorado.org/sites/ default/files/files/OAHP/crforms_edumat/pdfs/1620_EconomicBenefitsReport.pdf.
Grants for such repurposing are available in the millions of dollars not only from History Colorado and Preservation Colorado, but from such renowned foundations as Gates Family, Boettcher, El Pomar, Exxon Mobil and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).
A professional grant writer can be commissioned to apply for initial architectural proposals and cost analyses that can then be submitted for funding to such organizations.
The Rio Blanco County commissioners could easily allocate funds from their budget as they have done for other community improvement projects such as Columbine Park.
The County Master Plan (page 30) states: “The historic and cultural resources in Rio Blanco County will be protected and enhanced to offer recreational and educational opportunities.”
See online at www.co.rioblanco.co.us/development/pdf/MasterPlan020411C.pdf.
The Meeker Community Task Force to save and repurpose the old elementary school will be scheduling a public meeting in the very near future, open to all who wish to support this effort and to participate in the various committees necessary to pursue designs and grant funding.
Please contact your elected officials and let them know of your wishes to support the effort.
Creative industries are the fifth largest economic engine in Colorado. Communities such as Salida, Grand Lake, Pagosa Springs, Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Creede, Carbondale, Palisade, et al, which have built performing arts and cultural venues, have great success and economic growth due to these repurposed historic structures.
Historic downtown Meeker has a strong opportunity for doing the same if the community actively supports the effort.
To join the task force, email rdagto@msn.com or call 878-4832.
Mary Ann Wilber
Meeker Community
Center Task Force