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County officials make decision on old jail future

David Anderson elaborates on his thoughts about the Canadian County old jail restoration project during the commissioners discussion on the topic at a recent meeting. (Photo by Jacob Sturm)

By Jacob Sturm

With a costly decision in front of them, the Canadian County Commissioners opted against
investing in the restoration of the old jailhouse on Monday morning.

Commissioners Tracey Rider, David Anderson and Tomas Mankse discussed the information
provided about the project. Eric Westfahl presented the numbers from the bids the county
received for the project, and included that the projected numbers came in below the

Part of the commissioners concerns for the project involved making a large investment for the
project, without the benefit of the interior being utilized.

“I think whatever we do, we need professional help with the construction of whatever course
that we take,” Anderson said.

Rider and Manske had questions about salvaging materials from the original structure and
turning the area into a memorial of monument as a way to preserve the history. They
emphasized the salvaging, even with the knowledge of the work being an extra cost.

The commissioners also heard from a spokesman from Preservation El Reno, who asked for the
structure to remain standing. The representative asked for the chance for raising funds for the
building over the course of 18 months.

Manske argued the issue with the plan proposed by the Preservation El Reno representative
would be that nobody could enter inside even if the funds for the project were raised in the 18
months due to the information the county had on hand.

“I think some historic value can be captured by salvaging some of its components and building a
monument area there,” Anderson said.

Anderson also mentioned a proposal for the ground the building sits on as part of his comments
during the meeting.

The option to relocate the structure was also brought up, even though the Preservation El Reno
representative was not in favor as it would make the structure likely not generate funding
through grants if it was moved from the original location.

“I personally don’t feel like people of this county would appreciate a half a million dollar
investment into the old jail,” Anderson said. “I think they’re a lot like me. They recognize the historic value of it, but the responsibility of public dollars is something that we’re tasked with.
So, I knew that this would be a hard decision eventually because it is a great expense.”

Manske agreed with the sentiment. He looked at the project from a budgetary perspective.

“I have to be responsible to my constituents as well,” Manske said. “I just don’t understand
$251,000 to put a roof on it and it not be usable. You can’t go in there, even if we put the roof
in you can’t go in there.”

Manske made a motion to not allocate the funds to the county jail restoration and to look for
ways to incorporate the salvaged parts of the jail into a new structure. Anderson and Rider also
voted in favor of Manske’s motion.

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