Letter to the Editor

Jail location objections raised earlier

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dear Editor,

First, I would like to express my appreciation to Connie Jo Discoe of the McCook Daily Gazette for her accuracy in reporting the remarks I made concerning the jail site at the Monday, March 19 meeting of the Red Willow County Commission. To me, the mission of a community newspaper is to encourage public discussion so that enlightened decisions can be made about publicly supported projects, especially those that require funding commitments.

That said, there is one additional point which needs to be made clear.

The members of the Red Willow County Commission and the commission-appointed Jail Planning Committee have known for eight months about opposition to the proposed jail site in the 500 block of Norris Avenue.

For proof, I am asking the Gazette to reprint the letter I sent to the county officials in the middle of last year.

The letter follows:

July 11, 2011

Mr. Earl McNutt, Chairman

Red Willow County


502 Norris Ave.

McCook, NE 69001

Dear Earl:

In addition to my duties as Executive Director of the Fox Theatre, I serve as the Western Nebraska Field Representative for Heritage Nebraska, a statewide organization dedicated to celebrating our state's history through education, outreach, preservation and stewardship of Nebraska's historic treasures.

Jan Korell of McCook is the 2011 chair of the Heritage Nebraska Board of Directors. I mention this fact because it has a direct bearing on the following message, which I would like you to convey to the members of the Red Willow County Jail Planning Committee.

It is my position and that of the Heritage Nebraska Board of Directors that the Red Willow County Jail should not be constructed on the county's property located north of the Red Willow County Courthouse.

The opposition of the Heritage Nebraska Board stems from the proximity of the site to the architecturally and historically significant Sutton House, the only structure in Nebraska designed by famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Wright-designed home, now owned by Mrs. Korell and her husband, Van, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered among the best examples in the nation of Mr. Wright's prairie style of architecture. The home is one of several historical structures in the area near the county's property on the northwest side of the 500 block of Norris Avenue. Other important historic structures nearby are the McCook Memorial United Methodist Church and the Red Willow County Courthouse.

Also, the 500 block of Norris Avenue is in the midst of the McCook historical area known as Heritage Square. The Heritage Square concept, conceived by former Nebraska First Lady Maxine Morrison, also includes the George W. Norris Home, the Norris Park Bandshell, Sen. Ben Nelson's boyhood home, the former Andrew Carnegie Library, and a number of other historic structures.

If you wish, I would be glad to meet with the Jail Planning Committee to more fully discuss the reasons for Heritage Nebraska's opposition to the area north of the courthouse as the jail site. As a long-time resident of Red Willow County, I commend you for your continuing efforts to determine an effective solution to the jail question. Other possible jail sites, in my opinion, offer much greater potential for accessibility and economic development of the Southwest Nebraska region.

Thank you for your consideration. Call upon me at any time to discuss this matter.

Very truly yours,

Gene O. Morris,

Field Representative

Heritage Nebraska in Partnership with

The National Trust for Historic Preservation

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