After receiving a report that outlined several safety issues with the Panther Creek Park fire tower that would cost an estimated $150,000 to fix, members of Daviess Fiscal Court agreed that repairing the shuttered tower is not a fiscally responsible decision.
County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said during the regular Daviess fiscal Court meeting Thursday that the fire tower, which was closed by the county earlier this year citing safety concerns, is not safe for public occupancy.
Gardner Engineering and Consulting, PLLC of Owensboro was hired by the county to conduct the assessment in July.
“Basically, what Gardner says is that when it was originally built, the structure was used as a fire observation tower,” Mattingly said during the meeting. “It was not intended for public access or public use.”
According to the report, which is available to the public, the fire tower was moved to Panther Creek Park 30 years ago. The report further notes that the tower does not meet safety standards and building codes required for public structures.
“What the engineer says is that several issues were identified during the course of the review as noted below, and until these issues are resolved, it is my professional opinion that the structure is not safe for public occupancy and should remain closed to the public,” Mattingly said.
While Fiscal Court has allocated $250,000 in its fiscal-year 2021-2022 budget to repair its parks, repairing the fire tower would eat up at least 60% of that budget.
“As I look at that, I can’t in good conscience make a recommendation that we move forward and repair the tower,” Mattingly said. “I think my recommendation would be that we declare it surplus and then instruct the engineer to proceed with taking the tower down.”
Fiscal Court then voted unanimously to have the fire tower declared surplus and begin the process of having it taken down.
Commissioner George Wathen said he was surprised to see the condition of the fire tower while viewing the report.
“I agree. It is just too much money for what we get out of it, and to me it would not be worth repairing,” Wathen said.
Commissioner Charlie Castlen said that he was disappointed with the results of the report, but he is in agreement that it is too expensive for the county to repair.
“The only thing I want to say about it was the report was very detailed and I appreciate the work that the engineer did on the study,” Castlen said. “I didn’t expect what he came back with, his cost numbers. I thought it would be a neat thing for us to be able to preserve, but I agree with you all.”
Commissioner Mike Koger said he was also in agreement, and that the liability of someone climbing up the tower and getting hurt is just too high.
The fire tower was closed to the public earlier this year due to safety concerns following an inspection by Daviess County Engineer Mark Brasher.