Published on -6/26/2012, 9:53 AM
Over the years, the citizenry of Hays have built an extraordinary public library, a splashy fun-filled aquatic park and a marvelous new convention and visitors center that also houses the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce.
They have constructed a brand spankin' new sports complex and now are discussing and researching the possibility of a convention center. Yet, through all these years of progress we have let a city landmark deteriorate to a degree that it is about to meet its demise.
No, the "old opera house" is not city property, but it could have been. About three city managers ago, during the time of Ken Carter, the 1989 budget contained a line item -- acquisition of property -- under the economic development category.
The "old opera house" was the historic building the city manager and commission had in mind when writing that line item. Well, the funds budgeted for property acquisition shrank as commissioners dipped into the fund to meet other money requests. By the time the 1989 budget was wrapped up, only a dismal amount remained for the budget item.
The talk and hopes and varying ideas of funding the purchase and restoration of the historic building remained. The cost of restoration would have been exorbitant, no doubt exceeding the cost of the building, but at that time there was a city manager and a city commission who recognized the value of this limestone landmark standing on the corner of Ninth and Fort since 1878.
According to an old newspaper article, "just the talk of restoring the opera house cheered folks in the community."
Now we read that this building once bustling with life as a general store, the county courthouse, the Eastman Opera House, the Essex Club and who knows what else, is literally tumbling down. What happened?
Where did that spark of interest, that spark of desire to bring this building "back to life" go? We have missed a golden opportunity to have a significant building from the days of Hays City be part of what tourists and visitors must see in historic downtown Hays.
It's a crying shame.