- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

OSAGE, Iowa (AP) - Crews have begun tearing down Iowa’s third-oldest courthouse, despite efforts by local residents to save the Mitchell County landmark.

Demolition began Tuesday on the old Mitchell County Courthouse, the Mason City television station KIMT reported (https://bit.ly/1n9tJz7 ). The process, including the installation of a basement for a new building, is expected to be done by spring. The demolition firm will conduct a meeting Thursday to keep the community updated on its progress.

County officials said the courthouse, which was built in 1858 and is located in the northern Iowa city of Osage, was falling apart. Supervisor Stan Walk said renovations would have run into the millions.

A grass-roots effort by Friends of the Mitchell County Courthouse tried to keep the building from being torn down. The group distributed fliers on the issue and met with residents prior to two ballot measures that would have determined how the county would pay for a new courthouse.

Walk noted during an interview with The Associated Press in November that a preservation committee of about 40 residents, including members of Friends of the Mitchell County Courthouse, voted in March to tear down the building. The public also was invited.

Some residents at the time questioned how the committee vote was handled, but Walk refuted any accusation that the vote was not conducted with full transparency.

Despite the demolition, it’s still unclear how the county will pay for a new courthouse. Voters in November turned down the latest measure to sell general obligation bonds. Officials may put the financing issue up for another vote this year in an effort to avoid selling more expensive revenue bonds.

Osage Mayor Steve Cooper watched the demolition Tuesday.

“You have mixed feelings on it, you know the condition of the building it was unsafe and they needed to do something but you also hate to see a piece of history demolished and taken out,” he said.

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Information from: KIMT-TV, https://www.kimt.com

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