If anyone thought that the Pocatello Historic Preservation Commission was a rubber-stamp on big projects that will impact our city, what happened on Wednesday evening threw that theory out the window.
And we could not be more proud of the commission.
At Wednesday evening’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting at City Hall, Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 officials presented their plans for the second phase of the Pocatello High School remodeling project.
The fact that the district didn’t even provide the commission with a floor plan of the second phase perhaps showed that even the district thought the commission would rubber-stamp the multi-million-dollar project.
We saw the lack of a floor plan as not only a sign of disrespect toward the commission but also evidence as to just how inadequate the district’s presentation was on Wednesday.
All this is a bit unthinkable considering the millions of dollars in taxpayer money being spent on the project.
Like many of the people opposed to the Pocatello High renovations, the commission said the glass panels on the exterior of the proposed connector — a structure that will link the high school’s two historic brick buildings — simply don’t fit with the rest of the school’s architecture.
The School District officials almost seemed insulted that the commission would question their plans.
But that’s the Historic Preservation Commission’s job and we’re grateful the commission stood its ground and rejected the district’s plans for a school that is one of our community’s most important landmarks.
We can’t say more about those plans because district officials refused to provide them to the Idaho State Journal at Wednesday’s meeting.
We have to think that this lack of transparency on the School District’s part also factored into the commission’s decision.
The School District should have unveiled its plans for the second phase of the Pocatello High School renovation project at a well-publicized community meeting at which the project could have been properly presented and residents could have had all of their questions answered.
We have found that when government entities like school districts hold such meetings the end result is typically a better project essentially because much of the public’s input is very much useful.
We expect that the School District will appeal the commission’s rejection of the second phase to the Pocatello City Council.
We would strongly recommend that the council not grant the district permission to move forward until the district properly presents its Pocatello High School plans to the community.
This would entail holding well-publicized meetings and making the plans available in detail to the media and public.
Considering the big complaint from those opposed to the proposed Pocatello High renovations is that the district has been sneaky throughout this entire process, what we saw at Wednesday’s meeting provided fodder for that narrative.
The School District must prove to our community that it can do better.
Thank you Pocatello Historic Preservation Commission for not letting the School District’s mishandling of an important project be rewarded.
Pocatello High School is an iconic building and the entire community needs to be part of any decision to alter its appearance.
Our community’s extremely fortunate to have a historic preservation commission that takes its job seriously and is far from being a rubber stamp.