Bennett Perry home not yet a priority

Jul. 15, 2013 @ 06:55 PM

Work on the Bennett Perry home is expected to remain on hold for a second year, a casualty of tight budgets.

The home was donated to the City of Henderson under an agreement it would be operated as a museum.

The situation led Garry Daeke, a member of the city council, to suggest a fundraising committee may be needed to seek donations from the public so some projects could get going for the old historical home at the corner of Chestnut and Church streets.

None of the estimated $108,000 worth of work has been done yet to the interior of the home, and because of budget cuts for the new fiscal year, there appears to be little chance of the city getting anything done until late 2014.

Aside from hooking up utilities, adding a new central air system and an upgraded electrical panel, the outside of the home is being maintained by city street department crews.

No work has been done on the inside, according to Henderson Director of Engineering Peter Sokalski, and there’s no plan to start any. Sokalski oversees public buildings in addition to his engineering duties.

“The electrical panel was updated to current standards, which was necessary for the new HVAC unit to be installed,” Sokalski said. “I understand the budget for this year is $4,700, which is basically for running utilities, the water and sewer hookups, and electricity.”

The original Bennett Perry home budget request was $11,400 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year that started July 1. That was pruned back to $8,700 before it was cut further by an additional $4,000 as part of efforts to reduce tax hikes.

The budget for the 2012-2013 year was $9,400, during which the home received winterizing work to protect the integrity of pipes and heating systems.

Dropped from requests were hopes to purchase a computer needed for the museum once opened and staffed, roof upgrades with new shingles, additional landscaping work to include a specific beautification plan and paving of the current gravel driveway.

“There is additional work to the inside needed before it can be a museum,” Sokalski said.

Daeke said he didn’t like seeing the historical home fall by the wayside again. It has been more than two years since the terms of the Bennett Perry estate were announced offering the home, and nearly two years since the council voted on Aug. 8, 2011, to accept the offer.

“We’re just keeping the heat on during the winter so things don’t freeze,” Daeke said. “The city crews will go by and mow, do pick up and trim. I know the budget was cut from the Bennett Perry house.”

Daeke said that another year could easily slip by with nothing done at all, unless some donated efforts could get organized.

“If there’s any fundraising, that could help,” Daeke said. “If we want to move forward and do something, I think it is time to put a committee together for fundraising. If the council wanted to do something like that, I’d certainly endorse the idea.”

Councilwoman Brenda Peace-Jenkins said she believed the preservation of the Bennett Perry legacy and other items of heritage and historical keepsakes “would be a blessing, but it has to be postponed for a while.”

Peace-Jenkins added, “It’s because the budget has been so tight, it has been pushed back. It has not been a priority.”

Estimates for meeting immediate, mid-term and long-term project goals for getting the home open as a local heritage museum run $108,066.

A first-tier project, required for regulatory reasons, is an estimated $16,000 for asbestos and lead abatement work. About $20,000 worth of interior painting, carpentry, door adjustments, floor refinishing, wall repairs, a security system and an approved entrance ramp for the disabled was also noted.

Further needs include porch repairs, kitchen refinishing work, fixtures, clean-up and insulation. As a contingency, nearly $21,000 was included in the estimate considering contractor overhead and profit margins for all work contracted out.

 

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.