Several O’Fallon residents spoke up at last week’s city council meeting, asking officials to take action on the renovation and preservation of the city’s oldest standing building.
According to O’Fallon’s Historical Society website, the Krekel House, home of O’Fallon’s first resident Nicholas Krekel, was built in 1856.
The home, located on North Main Street across from O’Fallon City Hall, was purchased by the city in 2007.
O'Fallon Patch previously reported, in December 2011, the City Council voted to put the renovations on hold so council members could discuss the project in more detail. The $54,500 allocated for the project was transferred to the Community Landscape Improvement Project (CLIP) Fund before the 2012 budget was approved in January.
During public comment at last week's meeting, residents advocated for the preservation of the Krekel House.
Wendy Prakop, who served on the 2008 comprehensive plan committee, said she was there to express her concern for the lack of interest and support of the city council when it comes to the home’s preservation.
She said the very first section of the comprehensive plan discusses historical preservation, specifically with goals to restore the Krekel House close to its original form. Prakop added the historic project is a work in progress.
“I question how long this progression will take, especially when the funds that were budgeted for the Krekel home were taken away and are now being used for landscaping and signage,” she said. “ Does landscaping and signage give a sense of grounding that show us who we have been and a foundation for who we will become?”
Pat Swinger, from the O’Fallon Historical Society came forward with a dozen supporters at her side.
“The last time this project was mentioned in a meeting, funds that had been shifted toward Krekel House were shifted back to the landscaping project—a very good project by the way,” Swinger said.
Swinger addressed the concern that the plans required more discussion.
“Every project starts out with just a vague idea and when people put their heads together, a good viable plan emerges,” Swinger said.
She added that in 2008, the comprehensive plan committee worked with a historic architect, and discussed every possible use for this property in order to take advantage of her knowledge and expertise.
Swinger said she realizes there was some excess in plan, and finalizing the plan will entail some compromises, to make cost effective decisions and it will likely require more than one budget cycle to get the job done.
“Ignoring the immediate needs and stabilization that could have been done with the $54,000 that was put in the budget and then taken out, will only make the future costs even higher,” Swinger said.
She said the decision was made to purchase the Krekel property and the council has a responsibility to protect it.
“We recently lost another historic home on Church St. that was bad enough, but how tragic would it be if the Krekel House, the building that undeniably plays the most important role in preserving and telling O’Fallon’s history, were lost to fire, or worse yet, sheer neglect.”
Swinger told the council she understands the recession has brought budgetary constraints, but urged the council to finish what’s been started before launching any new costly projects.
Cheryl Hibbeler, an O’Fallon resident who was appointed to the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation also spoke at the meeting.
She said O’Fallon could take advantage of program called Certified Local Governments and the possibility of federal grants and grants through state historic preservation to help with the renovation costs.
“Besides O’Fallon tax dollars, there may be some avenues. There also may be the possibility of some fundraising and some pledges,” she said.
Hibbeler also said she knows of at least one descendant of Nicholas Krekel, who is interested in making a donation.
She said there are ways to ensure cost effectiveness and other avenues of raising some revenue to get the job done.
Ward 4 Councilman Jeff Schwentker said the city is working on a five-year plan addressing several issues, including the Krekel House, which will be discussed at the next strategic planning meeting on June 2.
“Nothing has fallen on deaf ears, we heard what you had to say,” he said.