The citizens of Meeker and Rio Blanco County have been informed by the board of county commissioners that there will be “public hearings” about the proposed design of the “justice center” which they propose to locate where the historic Meeker elementary school now stands.
The county has posted a description of the design proposals on its website — which of course is couched in glowing terms of how such a structure will “benefit” the downtown area and the county — at www.co.rio-blanco.co.us/information/
Sadly, this project will in fact forever destroy any semblance of the historic old school other than the stone facade on the south side of the school. This is their interpretation of “repurposing and preserving” the structure.
Despite the efforts and expressed wishes of more than 400 Rio Blanco County residents who signed a petition opposing this destruction, the project is moving forward as planned. The county has a viable alternative by building north of the courthouse as originally planned and at less cost since no abatement of asbestos is required before demolition can even occur. Remember that once the school is gone, it cannot be replaced. A jail in the heart of the downtown historic district is not “compatible” with efforts to designate the downtown area as a national historic district to promote tourism.
If you are opposed to this imminent tragic loss of an historic part of Meeker’s history, which could easily be preserved and repurposed for a community center as it now stands, and funded by grants and self-sustaining business incubators, conference and performing arts center, and much more to foster economic development through heritage and agritourism, I urge you to attend the hearings at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the CNCC Weiss Center in Rangely and at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Fairfield Center in Meeker.
Please participate, speak out and express your opposition to this unnecessary and inappropriate demolition of a landmark historic structure. There are many better options for a win-win solution.