An email to Town of Brookfield Clerk Jane Carlson on Feb. 19 contained the news: Waukesha County intended to demolish the barn at Eble Park and planned to begin preparations the next day.
Town Board Chairman Keith Henderson said it was the only notice the town received about the demolition plan. It was in the form of a "Frequently Asked Questions" document about the "Eble Park Barn Removal Project" that was also posted to the county's website.
"Would we have liked to have been notified earlier?" Town Board Chairman Keith Henderson said. "Yes."
The barn sits on 33 acres formerly owned by Florence and Roy Eble, who donated the property to the county in 1897 with language in the deed requiring the county to forever maintain it as a public park.
The reaction from town officials at the Plan Commission meeting Feb. 25 was somber. Some shook their heads. Town Supervisor John Schatzman said the Ebles were clear that they wanted their farmstead to be maintained as much as possible.
"This really violates the good will and spirit the Ebles intended for this land and community," Schatzman said. "It's really a shame."
Plan Commission members voted to send a letter to the county with a message similar to Schatzman's.
Ginny Bocek, the county parks program specialist, told NOW in October that the county had concluded it would be an "inappropriate use" of tax dollars to invest in fixing the barn. The demolition had to be approved in the county budget.
At the time, she said a hired firm estimated it would cost $89,000 to fix structural issues with the beams and walls of the barn, and to repaint it. She said it would cost about $26,000 to raze the barn.
At an open house Sept. 30, several residents said they hoped the county would find a way to preserve the barn, and suggested several ways to use it, such as for farmers markets or as an event space.
Town Building and Zoning Administrator Gary Lake criticized the county's decision to give up on the barn.
"They said there's some braces missing. Big deal," Lake said. "This is an insult to Florence and Roy, and that's what hurts."
The document from the county said pre-demolition asbestos and lead paint inspections would begin Feb. 20.
The silo at the park also is scheduled for demolition, according to the document. But the gardens, currently maintained by the volunteer group Southeastern Wisconsin Master Gardeners, are supposed to remain.
The fate of the rest of the park will be determined as part of the Master Planning process for county parks. Residents can submit feedback for the planning process at www.waukeshacountyparks.com/masterplans. Click "Master Planning," then "Eble Park."
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