BY JENNIFER GRAHAM
KINGWOOD — Vacant, condemned and historic buildings were the main topics of discussion at this week’s meeting of the Kingwood City Council.
Post cards or letters will go out to owners of vacant and condemned buildings who are eligible for grants up to $5,000 to clean up or take down the structures. The grant will be in the form of a voucher for the transfer station.
The vouchers will allow the individuals to dump up to $5,000 worth of material for free.
Councilman Bill Robertson said the application for the funds should specify that if the work is not completed or started within six months there will be a review.
If the job is only partially completed, the portion of money used at the transfer station will have to be refunded to the city. If work is not in progress, the building permit will be reviewed.
Councilors Robertson, Michael Lipscomb, Josh Fields, Karen Kurilko and Tina Turner voted in favor of the grants. Councilman Dick Shaffer abstained.
In other business, Kurilko said she believes some of the money from the city’s 1% tax should go toward the upkeep of historic buildings.
“Kingwood is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places,” she said. “I believe we need to try to preserve some of them.”
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the country’s historic buildings, districts, sites, structures and objects worthy of preservation. It was established as part of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is overseen by the National Park Service.
Kurilko said Kingwood has already lost three historic buildings on Price Street.
“I believe we need to be proactive and help with these buildings. I’d like us to put some of the 1% money into a fund for matching grants in order to keep Kingwood’s historical buildings from degrading,” she said. “We have to maintain so many buildings to maintain our historical status. We average $125,000 per quarter from the fund.”
Robertson said he believed council would “get in trouble” by helping individuals maintain buildings they own.
“I’d like to see a quarter of it go to paving streets,” he said. “I’m not sure about providing matching funds.”
Kurilko said council could limit the funds to nonprofits only.
“Being on the historical register is a big deal,” she said. “These buildings need to be preserved.”
Lipscomb said repairing streets and “getting the city to a good point” should come first.
“I’m staying out of this because I have a historical building,” Mayor Jean Guillot said, referring to the Preston County Inn. “But it does take a lot of money to upkeep these buildings.”
Fields said he liked the idea, but would first like to see the funds go toward something that would help the community as a whole, such as street repair.
“I was thinking of the McGrew House,” Kurilko said. “To get a grant they (The Society for the Preservation of the McGrew House) have to provide 50% in matching funds. There is water coming into the foundation. If it’s not fixed, it will destroy it.”
The McGrew House, origionally known as The Pines, was built in the 1840s by James C. McGrew for his wife Persis Hagans McGrew. McGrew served in the state’s first Legislature and in the U.S. House.
Fields and Lipscomb suggested low-interest loans instead of grants.
Turner said she read a post on Facebook about the problem at the McGrew house.
“There was a lot of positive chatter,” she said about saving the building. “More than what I thought there would be.”
Guillot said Kurilko should find out what other towns are doing to preserve their historic districts and buildings.
No further action was taken.
Council went into exective session.
The next meeting of Kingwood City Council will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 8.