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1913 jail sold to historical society


A sign in front of Ron's Barber Shop, 114 Third St., in Montezuma asks the question last week of who will get the jail shown in the background. The Poweshiek County Board of Supervisors voted on Jan. 28 to sell the 1913 jail to the county historical society for $1. They will also pay $35,000 over a period of 17.5 years.

Efforts by the Poweshiek County Historical and Genealogical Society to preserve and retain the 1913 jail for a county museum took a giant leap forward last week.

“This is history,” said Marcia Christensen, a historical and genealogical society supporter in favor of saving the old jail.

The Poweshiek County Board of Supervisors voted to sell the building to the society for $1. The offer came on the heels of a public hearing held Thursday, Jan. 28, in the boardroom to discuss the advisability of selling the building to the society. As part of the deal, the society has agreed not to accept the $2,000 annual donation it receives from the county for a period of 17.5 years, making the total purchase price $35,001. The first payment will be July 1.

“We feel strongly about the destruction of the building,” said Sue Eichhorn, historical and genealogical society president. “We see all kinds of possibilities with the building. I think it is a win-win situation.”  Located at 201 S. Third St. in Montezuma, the 1913 jail is the third oldest building of its kind in the state.

Frank Brownell, owner of Brownell’s Inc. in Montezuma, also expressed an interest in the building and location as a possible restaurant. Company spokesman Kyle Gauley said Thursday that Frank has a personal commitment to improving the City of Montezuma.

“What is going to improve the community also helps the company attract and retain employees,” said Gauley.

Gauley said if the current structure and electrical system could support a restaurant, the building would stay in-tact. If not, it would be torn down.

Gauley said he was fine with the board’s decision to deed the building to the society if it was acceptable to them; his only concern was that the building is used for some purpose other than storage.

Brownell was prepared to pay the asking price of $40,000. Eichhorn said the first order of business is to have the building tuck pointed at a cost of $5,000. The county is selling the building and lot as is. The county did reserve the right to retain the easement to a storage building located on the property for county use.

“We will be fundraising,” said historical and genealogical society member Roberta See of Grinnell.

Some minor details in the wording of the agreement still need to be worked out before the deal is finalized. The historical and genealogical society will take possession of the building once the sheriff’s department moves to it’s new facility.

“I want to thank everybody for your support and getting this ironed out,” said Eichhorn.

UPDATED February 3, 2010 5:23 PM

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