EXPLORE NEW USES FOR RESTORED MOTE-MORRIS HOUSE
The fire that ravaged the Mote-Morris House in Leesburg early this year did more than char its old wooden beams. It effectively robbed the home of much of its historic value.
Yes, the home will be rebuilt. We learned this week that the city's insurance company will cover the full cost — estimated at $1.1 million — to rebuild the damaged structure.
But while the restored home will look the same, it won't be the same.
The house, originally built in 1892, will not be rebuilt to antiquity standards. Modern materials will be used instead of 100-year-old wood and windows, for example. Otherwise, it would be far too expensive to restore.
So, yes, it will look and feel like the 3,500-square-foot late Victorian structure that was home to Leesburg's first mayor. But it won't be. Not quite.
Given that, some Leesburg city commissioners are wondering whether it should continue to be a historical showpiece or whether it should instead be utilized for a purpose that draws larger numbers of visitors.
It has been home in recent years to the Leesburg Chamber of Commerce, and it has been available for rent as a wedding venue.
Commissioner Jay Hurley mused recently that perhaps it could be a restaurant or a bed and breakfast. Maybe even a home for the Leesburg Center for the Arts.
Perhaps. There is merit in the notion that this public treasure should be accessible to a wider audience. We encourage city leaders to consider a wide array of uses for Mote-Morris House that both encourage large numbers of people to enjoy it while also maintaining it as a window into old Leesburg.
FIND MONEY FOR THE SHERIFF
Lake County commissioners boosted the sheriff’s budget by $3 million on Tuesday, which is well shy of the $10 million hike the sheriff had sought when budget talks began several months ago.
In settling on the more modest increase, commissioners argued that they weren't willing to raise taxes to accommodate Sheriff Peyton Grinnell's request. We agree, to a point
Grinnell wanted the larger increase to raise the salaries of deputies and keep their pay competitive with that of officers in surrounding counties. He noted that he is losing deputies to better paying police agencies and simply wants to level the playing field.
Grinnell said he can still give raises with the $3 million. The problem is, about a quarter of that money goes toward hiring additional officers to patrol schools. That means he really has about $2.3 million in new money, not $3 million.
The County Commission said they'll take a look at their budget mid-year and see if there is something they can do.
We encourage them to move faster.
Like so many other government employees — and workers in the private sector as well — wages for sheriff's personnel have largely been stagnant since the recession. It is difficult to maintain continuity in an organization and to retain veteran leadership and skill when better wages beckon from a neighboring county.
If the sheriff needs $700,000 to begin to elevate pay for our sheriff's personnel, we encourage the County Commission to find it.