Raise the roof

Dave Ferry

In the December 13 edition of the Times Observer, Josh Cotton covered the County Commissioners’ decision to commit to a $3,755,177 in repairs to the courthouse in ‘Addressing the court.’

I chose that headline, and like George Costanza’s “Jerk Store,” I thought of a better one after it was too late and used it for the basis of this column.

The “base option,” as it’s known, apparently “removes the slate roof repair and replacement on the courthouse,” Nichols said. “Woodwork and white work (on the courthouse exterior) would not be part of this program. Masonry repair would not be included,” according to ABM Account Executive Tyler Nichols.

While concern over choosing not to address the problems with the roof and exterior walls might seem like a no-brainer when one venture into the comment threads on the online version of this article, a far more sinister problem comes to light that may need to be addressed in order for progress to be made.

I see name calling toward our public officials. I have repeatedly seen historic Warren referred to as “Worn.” I see folks calling for the courthouse to be torn down and “build new.” As if that would be simpler?

As someone who has moved away from here and has personally seen what happens to towns that (willfully) lose their history, I am compelled to “Warn” (see what I did there?) the (hopefully) few contrarian voices out there of the slippery slope you will be on when you begin to compromise on your own history in the interest of austerity.

Times are tough, yes. $3,755,177 is a heck of a lot of dough, no doubt.

Regardless of whether you support the repairs, don’t support the repairs, or perhaps you think they should go for the “comprehensive option” – at a total cost of $5,693,019. Our public officers, whether elected or not, have the unenviable task at preserving this slice of America. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

We all take things for granted. It is human nature.

The reason humanity has been able to progress as far as we have is that wherever we find ourselves, we have this unbelievable ability to imagine that things could be better.

This power came in real handy when we were trying not to be eaten by bears. We imagined clever ways to defend ourselves, to create tools and to build things.

But it can also be a debilitating handicap when things aren’t so bad.

Our primordial brains are programmed by a basic instinct to survive. For those of us who are comfortable, defending the status quo becomes as important as controlling fire. For those of who aren’t as comfortable, imagining that things could be better dominates our prefrontal cortex and we become obsessed with solving problems.

Sometimes even when there aren’t any.

Historically, we are never able to see far past our current circumstances despite the undeniable fact that we have advanced in ways unimaginable to our pre-twentieth century progenitors.

What would those folks, the folks who BUILT that beautiful courthouse, think of us debating over trying to preserve it?

My hope would be that they would be pleased that we are at least trying. Maybe they would even be impressed with the way we are boldly stepping into the uncertainty of a new era much as they did before us.

It’s going to take courageous choices in order to survive.