Minutes – 2021-08-18

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August 18, 2021

The Historic Preservation Commission met via Zoom on Wednesday, August 18, 2021. Commissioners present on Zoom were Suzette Astley, Duane Eash, Leah Rogers, Mary Evans, Janet Budack, Grace Chamberlain and Guy Booth. Also present was Christine Flavin, a guest and the person requesting design review.

Upon motion duly made and seconded, the Minutes of the August 7, 2021 meeting were approved.

The design review request made by Christine Flavin regards the partial roof replacement at 609 6th St. NW. The property is in the Cornell Historic District. The work that needs to be done is replacing shingles on the west side of a dormer on the house. The proposed shingles will match the existing asphalt shingles. Ms. Flavin indicates that after the roofing company did further inspection, they have suggested that additional portions of the roof be replaced. It will not be a full roof replacement, but enough replacement to prevent any further leakage. Suzette indicates that the Commission has not received the approved building permit from Linn County. In fact, the building permit may have to be expanded. However, the work, even as expanded, is appropriate and necessary for the roof. Upon motion made by Leah, seconded by Grace, a certificate of appropriateness is approved and will be issued upon receipt of the final building permit documents from the City. Ms. Flavin will not have to re-submit her request for a certificate of appropriateness. Ms. Flavin indicates she has been doing additional work on the house and has more plans in the future, including landscaping. In particular, she has had many of the windows worked on, and especially to have storm windows prepared that are a match for the historic storm windows of the house. Ms. Flavin indicates that the window company that worked on her house is the Knebel Window Company of Iowa City. She feels they have done an excellent job working on her windows.

Under new business, Suzette indicates that she is working with Chris Carlson, who is head of the Mount Vernon Housing Commission. The Commission is interested in expanding their effectiveness in providing low and moderate housing in the City. In particular, they want to make sure that the older homes in Mount Vernon are maintained, and are affordable. Suzette indicates there has been discussion regarding rehabilitation grants, and further, questions regarding the development of a down payment assistance program. By having these grants available, it is felt that this will help provide for income diversity within the town, and also will maintain the village feel of Mount Vernon. There is a good deal of work that needs to be done before these programs will come into existence. Suzette has asked if anyone on the commission would like to volunteer to be on a liaison committee to work with the housing commission. They will not be members of the housing commission, but will be available to offer guidance from a historical perspective as these grant ideas are developed.

Suzette also mentioned that work is being started on the Sesquicentennial play for the City of Mount Vernon. The Commission has previously provided $500 for Amy White and $500 for Joe Jennison as they develop the script for the play. Suzette would like to have someone from the commission work with the group that is planning, preparing and will eventually

produce the play. Anyone on the commission can volunteer for serving as a liaison member from HPC. Grace gave a report on the work on the audio tour. It has been hoped that with additional advertising, there would be an increase in the number of people who use the audio tour. Grace indicates that a new website for the tour has been prepared and it is well done.

However, there has been some problem in bringing the website up as quickly as Grace would like. There also needs to be some work to see if Cornell’s website access should come down

now that the HPC website will be available. Grace also indicates that OnCell, the company that provides the website access, has made some confusing statements as to the need for and cost of an app for the audio tour. It was initially thought that there would be no charge for the app, but it now appears it could be as much as $99 per month. Grace indicates she would like to have the audio tour committee continue clarifying these issues and then coming back to the Commission with a final report so it can be determined what will be the best, yet most economical way of promoting the use of the audio tour.

Grace also brought up an interesting request that had been made to her. There are a couple of middle school students who have been interested in knowing about ghost stories in Mount Vernon. In other words, houses or buildings that may be ghost-inhabited. The commissioners indicated that there have been stories about a ghost in the basement of Bowman Hall, and also a ghost or unusual happenings in the Schweibert residence. The Schweibert residence is one of the brick homes which has recently been placed on the National Historic Register. If any commission members know of any other ghost-inhabited structures, please bring this information forward.

Suzette brought up the topic of a semi-annual newsletter to be sent out by the Commission. We discussed various articles that could be in the newsletter. There are many updates on the activities of the Commission, as well as articles that could deal with changes that are happening in the districts, especially any effects from the derecho.

It was reported that Donnie Moore has been in contact with Scott Ladwig at Cornell and has had a tour of King Chapel. He would like to present the information that he has learned during the tour. He also is wondering if there are any ways that the Commission can help Cornell as they move forward on dealing with the structural damage that was caused by the derecho. It is hoped that if tours or conferences regarding King Chapel are arranged, that all commission members have been notified so they can also participate.

Under old business, Mary Evans indicates that the shelving for the archive room has arrived. It has not been installed as yet, but it will be shortly. Once it is installed, we can arrange a schedule for placing our artifacts and all documents of the commission into the new storage area.

Mary also reminded the Commission of the Linn County Historic Commission Tour from Cornell through the downtown which will occur August 24. She also reminded of the two programs that would be held at the Buresh Center, one regarding buildings that have been moved within Mount Vernon and the other regarding the Waln-Wolfe House. Mary also indicated that she had received a contact from Rachel Pisarik with some corrective information regarding Virgil Crofter.

Under other old business, Suzette indicates that there is still discussion about attempting to have the Visitor’s Center be re-recognized on the Cornell Historic District as a contributing structure. By reaching this designation, there will be grants that could be available that will have a major impact on funding for the maintenance of the building. Leah will contact Jennifer Price to see what her schedule is for taking on any new work. It appears that the initial research would need to be completed by the end of September in order for the Commission to prepare and

submit an application for an HRDP Grant. Even if we can’t meet the timelines for this year’s grant program, it would be important to move ahead so we are prepared for grant programs in the future.

The meeting ended rather abruptly, as the Zoom conference involuntarily ended. It is assumed that the next meeting of the Commission will be Saturday, September 4. As previously discussed, this meeting may be both in-person and virtual. Suzette will make a decision on this closer to the meeting date, and depending on the status of the pandemic as we approach September 1.

Respectfully Submitted, Guy Booth, Secretary