"Barnstorming for ideas," Frederick News Post, March 3, 2009.Frederick, Maryland
By Stephanie Mlot
A barn might not look special, but Cherilyn Widell said it can be an extraordinary thing.
Under clear but chilly skies, about 30 people made their way to the Libertytown Fire Hall for Sunday's barn owners' workshop, sponsored by the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation. Widell, a historic preservationist, joined barn restoration specialist Dean Fitzgerald for two presentations.
"The weather isn't great," said Judith Breuer, publicist for the Frederick Barnstormers. "This is a nonessential thing to do," she said, commenting on the crowd.
Widell spoke first about federal and state tax credits for barn owners. She has spent about 30 years trying to figure out how to document and save buildings, and how to make them economically self-sufficient.
"I'm here to help each and every one understand what is out there and what works best for you," Widell said. "Consider me your personal consultant that you don't have to pay for."
Widell explained that a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar savings, not simply a deduction.
"I tried to do my best with a grass skirt and coconuts to make this exciting," Widell joked. "When you're talking about tax credits, it's not very exciting."
Jim and Peggy Elgin of Rocky Ridge didn't come for the excitement, but rather to learn. Barn owners since 1972, they said they want to find out where the resources are.
"We want to find people who can help," Peggy Elgin said.
Fitzgerald, president and CEO of Fitzgerald's Heavy Timber Construction, focused his presentation on relatively simple solutions for repairing old barns, which often have been neglected and abused for 40 to 60 years.
"I have a barn, and I want to see what it's about to preserve it," said Charles Dorsey of Union Mills, Westminster. Owner of a circa-1900 barn for about 33 years, Dorsey said he was looking for general information on keeping his barn intact.
Fitzgerald's presentation, which he explained as leading the audience along a path, offered people like Dorsey clues to help take on the sometimes overwhelming task of restoring buildings and setting priorities.
Barn owners should plan to a budget, instead of letting money become an afterthought, Fitzgerald said.
"Pick your dream and work backward from there."
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